UAE aiming for record medal haul at JJIF World Championship in Abu Dhabi
Host nation have put together largest ever squad of 76 fighters and are looking to add to golden hauls of Al Ketbi and Al Fadhli
The UAE are eyeing a record medal haul in the JJIF World Championship, which they are hosting for the first time, at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi starting on Saturday.
The host nation has has assembled their largest-ever squad of 76 fighters in the nine-day championship across five categories – the Open, Masters, Para Jiu-Jitsu and the Junior and Youth Worlds.
Since first taking part in the competition in 2014, the UAE has won a solitary gold medal every year.
Faisal Al Ketbi bagged successive golds in Thailand, Poland and Colombia from 2015 to 2017.
He failed to reach the medal round in Sweden last year but Omar Al Fadhli kept that record by clinching gold, and in the process became the first Emirati to win a final at both the Youth and Adult divisions.
The UAE has done better in the Junior and Youth, and they bagged 10 golds, seven silver and 15 bronze medals when it was staged in Abu Dhabi last year. They returned with seven golds,four silvers and two bronze medals in the previous year in Greece.
The UAE’s head coach Ramon Lemos is confident his team will rack up their best overall medal haul this time round.
“We have some established and experienced athletes and many others, particularly in the youth division, challenging for medals,” the Brazilian said.
“Of course, we don’t expect everyone to reach the medal rounds but we are confident we’ll have a good number on the podium.
“We also have a good programme year in and year out. We have prepared well for this championship and I do not see any reason why we cannot achieve a good haul of medals on our home turf.
“Faisal [Al Ketbi] and Omar [Al Fadhli] have both won gold in the JJIF worlds, and we expect them to headline our challenge.
“Then we have several youngsters in our high performance programme who have won medals in the youth division and now competing in the adult category.”
In the women’s division, the UAE will count on their young brigade led by the 2018 Asian Games silver medallist Mahra Al Hanaei.
Al Hanaei, 18, competes in the Youth U21 category in the 55-kilogram weight and is in the hunt for medals. She will be competing alongside older sibling Maha, Wadima Al Yafei, Reem Abdullah Al Hashemi, Maitha Shriam and Bashayer Al Matrooshi to name a few.
Al Yafei, 19, will also compete in the adults division with Noura Al Harmoudi and Mariam Al Ameri.
The teenager holds the distinction of being the first Emirati female to win a medal in an international competition when she won bronze at the Asian Beach Games in Vietnam on September 2016.
Mubarak Al Menhali, technical director of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, said their selections for the championship were based on technical assessments and merit of every fighter.
“This is a world championship and we need to get our best fighters and also those with potential as future champions,” he said.
“Our objective is to win as many medals as possible and at the meantime provide the opportunity for some up and coming talents, particularly in the youth division.”
Meanwhile, Russia arrived with the biggest contingent of fighters number 127 followed by Kazakhstan 78, Romania 69 and Germany 50.
Updated: November 15, 2019 08:54 AM