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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Faisal Al Ketbi keeping fingers crossed hard work in LA will pay off at Asian Games in Indonesia

The UAE's most decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner leads a 12-man squad in Jakarta-Palembang

Omar Al Fadhli, in black, is part of the UAE jiu-jitsu team alongside Faisal Al Ketbi at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Reem Mohammed / The National
Omar Al Fadhli, in black, is part of the UAE jiu-jitsu team alongside Faisal Al Ketbi at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Reem Mohammed / The National

Faisal Al Ketbi is keeping his "fingers crossed" he can add to his list of jiu-jitsu titles and accolades by winning a medal at the 2018 Asian Games.

The Emirati spearheads a men's squad of 12 that touched down in Indonesia on Sunday as jiu-jitsu makes its maiden appearances at the continental showpiece, which is being held in Jakarta-Palembang.

The UAE Olympic Association will hope the team performs as well as it did at last year's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. The UAE topped the medals table with four golds, four silvers and six bronzes in Ashgabat in September in what was a trial for these Asian Games, preparation that Al Ketbi hopes will stand the national team in good stead.

“We were successful at Ashgabat, but it’s going to be harder in Jakarta,” said Al Ketbi, who won both his 94-kilogram weight and the absolute division at those Games in Turkmenistan nearly 12 months ago.

“There is no open weight this time. I have to compete in my weight class for one medal. I have only one chance to win a medal. So fingers crossed.”

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The squad recently spent a month at a training camp in Los Angeles. They then spent five days training in Abu Dhabi, before flying to Jakarta on Sunday.

“It was an extensive camp to increase our fitness and improve our technical skills,” Al Ketbi, 30, said during the stopover in Abu Dhabi.

“Our head coach, Ramon Lemos, was always there with us making sure that we are always doing the best.

“We had very tough training session and had different types of activities. We were doing jiu-jitsu training, fitness activities like running and sprinting on the beach.

“It was a different learning curve and hopefully it will transform into gold medals at the Games."

The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation hired black belts based in the United States as training partners during the camp, with morning and evenings sessions six days a week.

“We did a few different things than the preparations that we do usually ahead of a big competition,” Al Ketbi said.

“Hopefully the result at the Games will confirm that. The last days before leaving for Jakarta we were involved in a closed camp at the Officers Club in Abu Dhabi.

“I would say the entire squad are ready and rearing to go. The morale is high and they know the responsibilities that lay on their shoulders for an event of this scale.”

According to assistant coach Henrique Rezende, the UAE squad can expect to face several opponents who have made the transition from judo and wrestling at the Games.

“These fighters can bring a different style of fighting and perhaps an element of surprise,” said the Brazilian, who has been part of the UAE coaching set up for more than four years.

“Part of our camp was to prepare to face such fighters because they bring in a different style to jiu-jitsu.

“We have prepared well to face any kind of challenges. We are aware other countries have put in the same kind of efforts.

“It’s very hard to predict results in any sport, but we believe we have a chance to win with every competitor, for sure."

Jiu-jitsu offers the UAE genuine prospects of medals at the Games, but Al Ketbi, the country's most decorated competitor, says the squad will use that pressure to their advantage.

“There is pressure on us, no doubt about it,” he said. “But I would say the pressure is in a positive way. We can take on the pressure because we know we have prepared well and with great honour we represent our country at the Games.”