A squad of 23 is heading to the competition in Turkmenistan with their coach expecting his charges to compete in the medal rounds.
UAE jiu-jitsu's Roberto Lima has high hopes of medals at Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games
The UAE jiu-jitsu national team are heading to the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games with big expectations on their shoulders from coach Roberto Lima.
The squad of 23 - 16 men and seven women - fly out on Friday to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, for the event that starts on Sunday, and Lima believes a training camp in Brazil has the UAE's athletes in a position to compete for medals.
“Overall we are travelling with a strong squad and expect a majority of them to reach the medal rounds,” he said.
“The team has reached good physical and technical level after the 25-day camp in Brazil. We were able to return with good results from the two Asian competitions and it provided us to select the strongest squad for Ashgabat.”
The UAE men’s team has had a busy two months from the beginning of the season.
Faisal Al Ketbi, who won gold and silver in Poland and had similar success in Vietnam, remains the UAE’s main hope of winning a medal.
Lima believes there are a few others, teenagers Obaid Al Nuaimi and Omar Al Fadhli, and the experienced Taleb Al Kirbi, Yahia Mansour Al Hammadi and Zayed Al Kaabi, to reach the medal rounds.
However, he is wary that the UAE face stiff competition if they are to return from the competition with medals.
"We expect strong challenges from the Central Asian region,” he said. “The fighters from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are strong in wrestling and judo, and they will be tough opponents.
“There are also bigger participation in every weight division which means each fighter will come up against more than five opponents before reaching the medal round.”
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Up for grabs in Ashgabat are seven gold medals in the men’s division and six for the women, and each nation can enter two fighters in a weight category.
“Ashgabat is important because it’s a competition under the Olympic Committee of Asia with whom we have worked very closely to have jiu-jitsu included in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta,” said Yousef Al Blooshi, the team manager.
Al Blooshi knows the national team squad well, having travelled with them to every competition and training camps abroad for more than three years. He has seen them progress into a professional fighting unit.
“As athletes, they have changed in every aspect of their life,” he said. “The discipline is remarkable. They can handle themselves as professional athletes, from their eating habits to the level of training they need to do.”
Al Blooshi is excited about the younger generation of fighters to step in to the senior squad at some points of time.
“They have had a heady start than our seniors,” he said. “They are in the ages 16 and 17 but are more professional as they started high performance training at a very young age.”
Joining the jiu-jitsu team on the flight are members of the athletics, cycling, chess, bowling, billiards and snooker national teams, with the Games taking place until September 27.