Al Fadhli says UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation has left no stone unturned in the fighters' preparations for the Asian Games
Omar Al Fadhli says winning Asian Games jiu-jitsu gold 'will be a high point of my career'
Omar Al Fadhli is confident of replicating the gold medal-winning performance at last year's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games when the men's jiu-jitsu competition at the Asian Games gets under way this weekend.
The Emirati teenager is among the 16-strong UAE men’s and women’s squad vying for the 12 gold medals up for grabs in jiu-jitsu at the continental showpiece in Jakarta-Palembang.
Al Fadhli, 18, said he is in no doubt the level of competition in Indonesia will be significantly higher than that which he faced in winning gold in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 11 months ago but insisted he has taken his game to a new level for the challenge ahead.
“It’s no surprise because everyone has been preparing for the Asian Games for a long time,” said Al Fadhli, who competes in the 62-kilogram weight competition that gets under way at the Convention Centre on Saturday.
“The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan was a trial for Jakarta. For me, I had a good idea of the competition but definitely going to be tougher in Jakarta.”
The UAE's topped the jiu-jitsu medals table in Ashgabat - winning four gold, four silver and six bronze - and Al Fadhli said he had his teammates were looking for a similar return from their trip to Jakarta.
“We had a head start in jiu-jitsu than some of the other Asian countries and that provided us an advantage, but others have caught up,” added Al Fadhli.
“Indeed it would be very interesting to see how much the sport has developed within this short period."
Al Fadhli said the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation has left no stone unturned in the fighters' preparations for the Asian Games having spent a month at a training camp in Los Angeles prior to flying to the Indonesian capital last Sunday. He hopes the intense six-day-a-week double training sessions in the United States will help him achieve his dream of winning a gold medal as jiu-jitsu makes its debut at the Games.
“Our preparation has been excellent,” he said. “We spent a month in San Diego in the United States and continued our final preparation in Abu Dhabi before flying out to Jakarta.
“I’m aware I have a long journey ahead but winning a gold at Ashgabat will be a high point of my career.
“The Asian Games will be more prestigious. It’s a dream of every athlete to own a medal from the Games, and for us particularly, because jiu-jitsu is making its debut and those who reach the medal rounds will be part of history.”
At 16, Al Fadhli became the youngest to represent the UAE national team at an international competition, winning silver at the Asian Beach Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Sri Lanka in July 2016.
Since then Al Fadhli's trajectory has continued on an upwards curve and the national team's Brazilian coach is confident his charges can add to their growing reputation in Jakarta.
“There are a few youngsters in the high-performance training in the Asian Games squad and Omar is one of them,” said Helder Medeiros, affectionately known as "Coach Bobby".
“In sports, it’s very hard to predict but we are confident they’ll return with good results.”
Comparisons are already been made between the seniors and the youngsters in the 12-man national team.
The seniors - Faisal Al Ketbi, Talib Al Kirbi and Zayed Al Kaabi - have more than 10 years of experience in international competitions and will look to pass on their knowledge to youngsters including Al Fadhli, Hamad Nawad, Humaid Al Kaabi and Khaled Iskander Al Balushi. The women's team is made up of four teenagers: Wadima Al Yafei, 18, Mahra Al Hanaei 16, and Bashayer Al Matrooshi and Hessa Al Shamsi, both 17.
“I have watched them progress through the ranks and waiting excitedly to see them in action in the Games,” said Yousef Al Blooshi, the team manager,
“They are a new generation of fighters. They have mastered the modern art and technically are a lot different to the older fighters.
“They are young but have been around for a long time in the international circuit and can handle any pressure. They are very exciting to watch.”