Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

UAE's Hamad Eissa Al Balooshi wins para jiu-jitsu gold at JJIF World Championship

Al Balooshi defeats Ildar Zainalov in 'category 9' division at the Mubadala Arena on Tuesday

UAE's Hamad Eissa Al Balooshi, right, defeated Ildar Zainalov, centre, to win para jiu-jitsu gold in the JJIF World Championship at the Mubadala Arena on Tuesday. Courtesy UAEJJF
UAE's Hamad Eissa Al Balooshi, right, defeated Ildar Zainalov, centre, to win para jiu-jitsu gold in the JJIF World Championship at the Mubadala Arena on Tuesday. Courtesy UAEJJF

Hamad Eissa Al Balooshi – the UAE’s sole flag bearer in the para jiu-jitsu event at the JJIF World Championship – claimed gold in the 'category 9' on day five of the competition at the Mubadala Arena on Tuesday.

The Emirati, 23, outclassed Ildar Zainalov 6-0 to register his third win in three meetings with the taller and heavier Kazakh opponent.

“The fight was hard and easy,” Al Balooshi said. “It was hard because this guy seems to have worked pretty hard to improve his game. I knew it because I was meeting him for the third time.

“It was easy because I know his strengths and techniques well. I can’t say more on my opponent but I have been in jiu-jitsu since I was 11.”

A second year student at the Higher Colleges of Technology, pursuing a degree in media and communications, Al Balooshi had been competing with able-bodied athletes until para jiu-jitsu was first introduced at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship in 2017.

“That was the first time I met Ildar,” he said. “I was up against a taller and heavier opponent. I did a lot of guesswork and remember winning against him 6-2.

Hamad Eissa Al Balooshi is congratulated by coach Ibrahim Al Hosani after winning para jiu-jitsu gold in the JJIF World Championship. Courtesy UAEJJF
Hamad Eissa Al Balooshi is congratulated by coach Ibrahim Al Hosani after winning para jiu-jitsu gold in the JJIF World Championship. Courtesy UAEJJF

“Like him, I have worked hard on my fitness and techniques. Jiu-jitsu is my passion ever since I started practicing the martial art.”

Al Balooshi has polio in his left leg and faced many difficulties due to his condition, even getting bullied during his younger days. Yet, he remained active in sports, playing football for his school.

“In football, I always found myself on the sidelines,” he said. “I wanted to play something where I was solely responsible for my performance and that’s the reason I picked up jiu-jitsu.

“I tried jiu-jitsu when it was introduced at school, and I got hooked. Now that’s my only sport.

“I am thankful to this sport for giving me so much and for teaching me several important lessons. Apart from my physical fitness, the sport has immensely helped my mental conditioning.”

Al Balooshi’s parents were initially against his interest but now they encourage and support him.

“It was normal for any parents to get worried,” he added. “In the beginning they were against me going for jiu-jitsu lessons. They were scared that I would get hurt but later they started supporting and encouraging me.”

Al Balooshi revealed he now has more fans behind him than when he first started and enjoyed competing in his own backyard.

“It’s always nice to compete at home because I get a lot of support,” he said. “A few of my friends travelled with me in the same car to cheer me when I was competing.

“That’s was very nice of them. There are others who cheer for the country, and to hear them chant ‘UAE, UAE’ is enough for me. It encourages and motivates me more.”

Updated: November 19, 2019 06:53 PM

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