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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Khalifa Nassrati the pick of the youngsters as UAE jiu-jitsu squad return from Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Los Angeles with 14 gold medals

Nassrati, 18, won gold medals in the 62-kilogramme weight class and the para jiu-jitsu Class 13 at the Los Angeles Convention Centre

Khalifa Nassrati in action at the Grand Slam Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Convention Centre on Sunday, September 25, 2017. Photo courtesy UAEJJF
Khalifa Nassrati in action at the Grand Slam Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Convention Centre on Sunday, September 25, 2017. Photo courtesy UAEJJF

Jiu-jitsu in the UAE is in rude health if the takings from the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Los Angeles are anything to go by. Of the 14 gold medals amassed by the national team in California, six of them were won by teenagers.

Khalifa Nassrati, 18, was the pick of them, winning gold medals in the 62-kilogramme weight class and the para jiu-jitsu Class 13 at the Los Angeles Convention Centre.

Nassrati was competing in the Grand Slam adult division for only the second time. He won a silver on his debut at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Tokyo in July, the opening leg of the five World Tour events.

“The competition in Los Angeles was a lot tougher with the majority of entries from the United States and South America,” Nassrati said.

“My experience in Tokyo came in handy. I had enough time to prepare between the two competitions. My objective is to return to the senior national team with good results like I achieved in LA.

“It’s a tough call with more than a pool of 40 fighters in the senior national squad. I can only keep trying but results at this level will not go unnoticed. So fingers crossed.”

Nassrati has been successful at both junior and youth level and won a silver medal for his country in the adult division at the Asian Beach Championship in Sri Lanka in 2016.

Born with a congenital birth defect that left him with stumped fingers on his left hand, Nassrati also shone in the competition for para jiu-jitsu fighters in LA, which was being staged for the first time on the Grand Slam tour.

“I want to compete at the highest level and I feel I have already proved the handicap is not a hindrance on my progress in jiu-jitsu,” said Nassrati, who represents Al Ain Club.

“I didn’t want to compete in the handicap category but it so happened that they had a category that I could take part [in]. It was also a team decision, and when you have a chance to win a second gold, I thought why not, go for it?”

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As well as the haul of 14 golds, the 161-strong Emirati contingent, representing four clubs in LA, also picked up 12 silver and seven bronze medals.

Humaid Al Kaabi followed up his silver medal earlier at Tokyo with gold in the juvenile blue belt 81kg.

The others to return with gold in the juvenile blue belt division were Salem Sultan Al Dhaheri (55kg), Khalifa Al Kaabi (60kg) and Hessa Al Shamsi (57kg - female).

The other eight gold medallists were Abdullah Al Kubaisi (94kg), Ahmed Bazuhair (85kg), Ahmed Omar (110kg), Jabir Abdullah (77kg), Naser Samtar (85kg) all in the white belt; Zainallah Al Kurbi (blue-62kg), Abdulla Al Senaani (blue-77kg), Mohammed Radhi (purple-69kg), and Musabbeh Al Kathiri (brown-69kg), in the Masters-1.

Brazil, meanwhile, swept the board in the black belt open division, accruing all seven golds in the men's and all six on offer in the women’s divisions.