The UAE enjoyed huge success at the recently concluded Jiu-Jitsu International Federation (JJIF) World Championship for Aspirants and Juniors held in Abu Dhabi, walking away with 31 medals including nine gold.
It was a haul that saw the Emirates secure second place in the medal’s table behind Russia (16 gold, 11 silver and 29 bronze) in a competition that drew more than 700 fighters from 40 countries over three days of action at the Mubadala Arena at Zayed Sports City.
Omar Al Fadhli, winner of the 62-kilogram weight in the Under 21s, said: “To return with 31 medals is a pretty good strike rate. We had a lot of fighters taking part at this level for the first time and most of them took podium finishes, which is a sign of progress.”
At 16, Al Fadhli became the youngest to represent the UAE senior squad at an international competition, winning a silver medal at the Asian Beach Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Sri Lanka in July 2016. He said the country's young fighters were able to achieve their success on the back of the hard work done by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
“Today we stand on par with many established jiu-jitsu nations because of the work of our federation,” said Al Fadhli, who won his gold medal by beating Nurmukhanbetov Zhandos of Kazakhstan in his final.
“Our federation has not only supported us as a team but have played a massive role to promote the sport globally with the objective of taking it to the Olympics."
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The IJJF has targeted adding the martial art to the 2024 Olympic Games programme. “It would be every athlete’s dream," Al Fadhli said. “If that happens, a majority of the fighters in this championship for aspirants and juniors can be there.”
Al Fadhli believes the national team's juniors have now reached a level where they can compete against the best in the world.
“If you take our results into consideration at the international circuit, not just this one championship, you can see how much we have progressed over the years,” he said.
“The results are important because that’s how we can measure our levels in the world circuit. A majority of the fighters from this championship for aspirants can go on and become big stars in the sport one day.”
Hana Al Hanaei (40kg) and Shamma Al Kalbani (57kg) picked up gold medals for the UAE in the female category, while there were silver medals for Mahra Al Hanaei (52kg), Bashayer Al Matrooshi (63kg), and bronze for Wadima Al Yafei (70kg).
Humaid Al Kaabi (69kg) in the U21s had to settle for silver in the male category after losing to Detemmerman Amaury 2-0 on points.