Emirati teenager has long-term ambitions of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Khalifa Al Hosani aims to make a good year great by wining medal at IJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam
Emirati teenager Khalifa Al Hosani has said he is confident of reaching the medal round at the ninth IJF (International Judo Federation) Abu Dhabi Grand Slam at the Ipic Arena.
Appearing for the third time at the Abu Dhabi event, which takes place from Thursday to Sunday, Al Hosani believes he is now experienced enough for the step-up in the senior level.
“I know the level that I have to reach to compete in a Grand Slam,” he said. “I have been on the world circuit for a while and think I have reached that level. It has been a pretty good year and hope it will get better even for me.”
The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam has drawn 290 judokas from 48 countries. The UAE have five entered with Al Hosani, 18, in the 77-kilogramme weight. Rashed Al Mashjari (73kg), Victor Scvortov (73kg), Mihail Marchitan (90kg) and Ivan Remarenco (100kg) are the other judokas representing the UAE.
The one notable absentee from the UAE squad is Rio Olympic Games bronze medallist Sergiu Toma, who is recovering from a back injury.
“Our preparation has been on the dot and all of us are hoping to do well,” said Al Hosani, who returned with his teammates from a two-week camp in Tokyo on Sunday.
“At the camp, we did a lot of work to sharpen our skills in fight situations. We learnt a lot from each other as well. Now it’s up to each one of us to go out there deliver.”
Al Hosani is enjoying his best ever season. He won silver at the IJF Cadet World Cup in India and bronze at the Asian Cup for Juniors in Hong Kong. At senior level, he finished a creditable seventh in the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku.
The Grade 12 pupil from the Khalifa bin Zayed School also won gold medals in both regional and local competitions. He was successful in the Gulf championship in Bahrain and in four local events.
For Al Hosani, judo has come naturally. He is the youngest in a family of four boys who all followed their father, Faisal, into martial arts.
Zayed, Khalifa's brother, practiced Mixed Martial Arts and holds a 6-0 winning record in local competitions.
Ali, another of Khalifa's brothers, is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. He is a member of the UAE national team, while Ahmed is a purple belt. Between them they have won several medals, including in the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship.
Al Hosani is also a purple belt in jiu-jitsu and has won three gold medals in the Abu Dhabi World Pro. However, judo is the sport he focuses most of his energies on, and he has set his sights on qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
For this year, his goal is to win a medal at the season-ending Grand Slam Tokyo in December.
“Judo is an Olympic sport and with that ambition I’m concentrating on the sport which is also my first love,” said Al Hosani when asked why he didn’t follow on the footsteps of his older siblings.
“Jiu-jitsu has become very popular and the fastest growing sport in the country but judo still remains an Olympic sport.
“There are not many boys in judo. The sport is not that appealing as there are too many sports coming up. Internationally judo has good recognition but in the UAE it is not that popular.
“Our federation is hoping to change that by introducing new programmes to attract the country’s youth.”