The UAE experienced a medal rush at the Asian Games on Friday, winning two golds and three silvers in the space of an hour.
Ali Al Lanjawi claimed the first gold after winning the Jet Ski Runabout Limited in Palembang, the capital of Indonesia’s South Sumatra province more than 600 kilometres from Jakarta. Moments later, Mahra Al Hanaei grabbed silver in the national capital after being beaten by Jessa Khan of Cambodia in the women’s 49-kilogram jiu-jitsu final.
Then fellow fighter Hamad Nawad celebrated his 18th birthday by providing the UAE with their second gold after winning the men’s 56kg final against national teammate Khalid Iskander Al Balushi, who limped out after injuring himself at the Jakarta Convention Centre. For his efforts, Al Balushi clinched the nation's second silver medal.
Talib Al Kirbi also had to settle for silver after being outclassed by Kyrgyzstan's Torokan Bagynbai Uulu in the men’s 69kg.
The UAE would have won a bronze medal, too, had Al Hanaei's teammate Wadima Al Yafei not lost to Vietnam's Thin Thanh Minh Duong.
Nawad over the moon
Nawad was thrilled to win a medal for his nation and said he intended to keep it somewhere prominent so that it served as a reminder to himself and his family of his exploits.
“I’m going to frame this medal and have it hung on the door of my home for everyone to see,” he smiled. “I called my mother [Mona] - who has been my main support - soon after I won. She was screaming with joy.
"They [his family] have been following my fights and I’m so happy for myself and my country.”
Nawad won the final by submission after a foot-lock on Al Balushi to whom he had lost in all three previous meetings.
“He’s a good friend of mine, but when I step on to the mat I don’t have any friends because I represent the country,” Nawad said.
Thankfully, no 'heart attack'
But Nawad almost did not make it to the summit clash.
He endured a few anxious moments shortly after the semi-final result was called in favour of his opponent, Mongolia's Erdenebaatar Ulzitogtokh, following which he called for a video referral.
Thankfully for Nawad, the referral confirmed an error from the referee, which meant the result had to be overturned, sending Nawad to the final.
“It was a refereeing mistake," he explained. "I passed guard before three seconds, but the referee didn’t take note of the time and awarded three points to my opponent. I was leading 2-0 at that point.
“We knew it was a mistake and waited for the fight to end to appeal. [But] it was an agonising wait. Had the result gone against me, I would have almost had a heart attack,” Nawad laughed.
Overall, a strong showing
Earlier, Al Kirbi overcame Abdulmalik Al Murdhi of Saudi Arabia 1-0 before going on to win 2-0 and 2-1 against Zhakshylyk Uranov of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakh Natay Kazhekhov, respectively, enroute to the final.
Al Balushi was particularly impressive in beating Hong Son Dao of Vietnam 2-0, before getting past Uzbek Doston Ruzziev 4-0 and then thoroughly outclassing Nurzan Seiduali of Kazakhstan 5-0 in the semi-finals.
Al Hanaei won her opening contest against Arifa Sanjar of Afghanistan. She then beat Bayarmaa Munkhgerel on the referee’s verdict after a scoreless result. She finished strongly by winning her semi-final over Thi Thanh Minh Duong 14-0.
The medal glut left Mohammed Al Marzooqi, spokesman for the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, a very pleased man.
“We had the UAE flag raised four times and [hearing the] national anthem [being played] is a very proud moment for us,” Al Marzooqi said.
“The medal-winning was inaugurated by a lady," he added, referring to Al Hanaei's silver, "and that’s a remarkable achievement for the Emirati women.”
Three more medals are up for grabs in the jiu-jitsu category on Saturday.
The UAE's footballers progressed to the last eight after 4-3 victory over host Indonesia in a penalty shootout following a 2-2 deadlock at the Wibawa Mukti stadium on Friday.
Zayed Al Ameri scored twice from spot kicks but Indonesia came back to equalise both times, first through Alberto Goncalves da Costa on 52 minutes and then Stefano Lilipaly, to force the game into extra time.
They will play the winners of the Bangladesh-DPR Korea tie in the quarter-finals.
The 2010 Asian Games runner-up took the lead on 20 minutes after Andy Setyo Nugroho brought down Al Ameri and the forward made no mistake from the spot.
He put the UAE ahead again on 65 minutes but just when it looked like enough to book a place in the quarter-finals, the host struck four minutes into injury time.
In the shootout, Hussain Abdulla found the net after both David Maulana and Saddil Ramdani missed their spot kicks to send the UAE camp into celebrations.