UAE coach Maiky Reiter believes his team's international preparations will pay dividends and their medal count will be up at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, writes Osman Samiuddin.
UAE has high expectations on home turf at Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship
ABU DHABI // The UAE is hoping to double its medal haul at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
This year's tournament, due to begin Wednesday in the capital, marks the fifth anniversary of the showcase event in the sport's global calendar and looks set, according to organisers, to be bigger in terms of participation, prize money and attendance, than ever before.
Last year, five Emirati fighters won gold medals in their categories, but the UAE national team coach, Maiky Reiter, believes an 18-strong team can win up to 10 medals this year.
"We won five golds last year, so this year we're hoping ideally everybody gets a medal," Reiter said. "But we've got multiple entries in the same divisions, so we're expecting around 10 medals."
Leading the way on the UAE front will be Faisal Al Ketbi, who won gold last year in the under 100kg purple-belt category with Yahya Al Hammadi, Ahmed Mousa Al Nuaimi, Abdullah Al Ketbi, and Shamsa Hasan and Sameera Al Romaithy on the female side.
Reiter has been particularly pleased with the build-up his team have had to the championships.
"Preparations began seriously right after the last world championships," Reiter said. "We had a break, but then we've had camps since. We went to Brazil for a two-month camp where the guys picked up on different techniques, sparring with different kinds of fighters.
"After that, we went to the US for a tournament, just to make sure the preparations were going right. But believe me, these guys are amazing. They have taken themselves to the very limit and are ready for it."
As expected, the field for the tournament is the toughest to be found on the circuit; near-enough the entire top 10 fighters in all divisions will be present.
Leading black-belt fighters, including Rodolfo Vieira, the reigning Abu Dhabi open-weight champion, Taris Humphreys and Claudio Calasans are fighting, as well as Gabrielle Garcia, a seven-time world female champion.
They are part of more than 750 adult fighters selected from around the world, many of them chosen after extensive trials in 27 different countries. They will be competing for a share of Dh1.45 million, the highest prize money offered at the tournament.
"Most of the best fighters in the world want to compete here because this is one of the best tournaments you can find," Al Ketbi said. "I'm pretty sure we're ready for the fight and I'm confident this year again for getting a medal."
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) practitioners BJ Penn and Demian Maia will also be present through the championships, meeting fans and conducting a series of demonstrations through the four-day event.
There is also an expanded children's roster this year, with 650 children from 28 schools across the UAE competing on the opening day of the event as well as 50 children from across the world.
"We've got more schoolchildren involved than ever before," said Al Romaithi, a board member of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and currently the federation's acting chief executive.
Girls from eight different schools are participating, she said.
Al Romaithi herself is competing this year, in the 60kg, blue-belt division.
"We're very proud that we've come so far with this tournament," she said. "We've come a really long way and it's great to se, if you look at just the number of athletes who have been participating, which is increasing year on year.
"Also in terms of spectators, we're getting more and more attendance - we're hoping to have around 3,000 spectators every day this year – which means the sport is getting through the country and community."
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