It was another day to remember for the UAE as promising Emiratis took home 136 medals in the boys’ category at the World Jiu-Jitsu Children’s Cup yesterday.
Following the impressive 130-medal haul by Emirati girls on Monday, the boys rose to the occasion by winning 36 gold, 37 silver and 63 bronze at Abu Dhabi’s IPIC Arena.
Over 900 competitors aged between 10-15 took to the mat on a day where 54 weight divisions were contested. Among the triumphant Emiratis was 13-year-old Khalifa Ahmed.
He defeated Dubai-based Briton Brandon Tutton to win gold in the 50.5kg yellow junior division.
— فعاليات أبوظبي (@AbuDhabiEvents) April 21, 2015
Ahmed said: “It feels great to win this medal. I really had to overcome some stiff challenges because the competition was tough. Each fighter I faced had their own different strengths and it wasn’t easy at all.
“I’m just really happy because this is the first gold for me and to do it in Abu Dhabi in a world competition feels really special,” added the Al Ghazali fighter, who has practiced jiu-jitsu for three years.
Khaled Al Otaibi (34.5kg), Abdulrahman Mohammed (34.5kg junior) and Saif Khaled ( junior 38.5kg) delivered impressive performances in the grey belt division.
In the yellow junior 46.5kg division, UAE’s Hazaa Mohamed Aljneibi did enough to hold off Azerbaijan’s Alay Yaradanguliyev to come out on top.
And there was success for non-Emiratis as Brazil’s Raphael Ferreira Verdam added more silverware to his trophy cabinet. The 11-year-old, who practices at the famous Vasco Da Gama club, topped his division (yellow infant 34.5kg) for his second straight world triumph.
“This is one I will always remember and one I will cherish,” said the Brazilian. “I won gold last year but winning it again is really special because it was a lot tougher than last year.”
— UAEJJF (@uaejjf) April 21, 2015
Verdam, practicing Jiu-Jitsu since the age of four, has dominated with seven gold in the Brazilian junior competitions, but feels the Abu Dhabi event has proved to be his most challenging so far.
He said: “It’s a hard tournament as the world’s best are competing. The Emiratis are definitely becoming stronger and tougher which is good for the game because it widens the horizon of the sport.”
For compatriot Gabriel Consendey, the 13-year-old defeated his good friend Sultan Khamis for gold in the grey junior 62.5kg class. It was the first world gold for the Bani Yas resident who did enough to impress the judges to score a points victory.
“It just feels really cool because I’ve only been doing jiu-jitsu since September,” said Consendey. “It was a difficult final because I know Sultan well and we both fought very well and neither of us deserved to lose.”
He added: “Now I can only work harder and hopefully achieve more gold in the future.”
Six-time winner Rodolfo Vieira is not surprised by UAE’s Faisal Al Ketbi’s rise and expects the Emirati to pose a big threat should the pair meet at next week’s Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championships (ADWPJC).
The black belt fighter has a rich history in the tournament since its debut in 2009, winning gold in three different weight divisions in the capital.
The Brazilian will line up in the Under-95kg category, having decided not to compete in the Open Division where he has been beaten twice by compatriot Marcus Almeida in the last two finals.
“I injured my back towards the end of last year and I didn’t treat it adequately and I couldn’t train to the best of my abilities,” explained the 25-year-old on why he is competing in the Under-95kg.
“I just slowed down on my training regime, but since the beginning of January I have been training intensively for this tournament.
“I prefer to fight in the Under- 95kg category but it’s just a matter of preference and I feel that any weight division above that (Under- 95kg) would be too much.”
— Abu Dhabi Warriors (@ADWarriors) April 14, 2015
With a seventh world gold firmly in his mind, he is wary of all competitors in his category and spoke highly of UAE’s top-ranked jiu-jitsu fighter Al Ketbi.
Al Ketbi will make his first appearance at the ADWPJC event in the black belt category since moving up from brown last May. And Vieira insists he will relish the opportunity of taking on Al Ketbi if the pair clash at the IPIC Arena.
“I’ve known Faisal since he did judo and we have fought previously. It would be an honour to fight him in his own country,” he said.
“There are a lot of good fighters in this category and obviously Faisal is a favourite in this region; it would be very good to meet him.”
— Sport360° (@Sport360) April 11, 2015
He added: “He’s definitely improved considerably and everybody says he trains consistently and is focused on improving himself.
“Anyone who wants to do it (rise in rank), can do it and he has done well by reaching the top through dedication. If someone wants to do the same by reaching the top, they can do it as well.”
The four-time Brazilian world jiu-jitsu champion cannot wait for the tournament that he highly regards.
“This tournament is the one I enjoy the most and it’s my biggest event of the year. The world’s best compete here, adding more value to the tournament and the country as a whole respects jiu-jitsu which is why I enjoy competing in Abu Dhabi very much,” added Vieira.
The UAE’s top-ranked Faisal Al Ketbi is not ruling out the possibility of winning gold as he gears up for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in the black belt division for the first time.
The Emirati has enjoyed much success in the tournament, triumphing in blue and brown belts.
Last year he defeated American Hans Borchardt to claim his fifth gold and it was that success that earned him the black belt in May 2014.
And less than a year since making the move, Al Ketbi is relishing the opportunity of taking on the world’s best at the IPIC Arena from April 23 to 25.
— UAEJJF (@uaejjf) March 18, 2015
“I have been training hard and feel very confident,” said the double Asian Beach Games gold medallist, who will compete in the Under-95kg category in Abu Dhabi.
“I expect to do well in this competition because my training has gone on very well.
“I want to gain a lot of experience and I would love to win the gold medal and that is a challenge in itself which I’m ready for.”
He will enter the tournament in confident mood having won gold in a tournament in Brazil, where eight other Emiratis took part in a six-week training camp.
And Al Ketbi acknowledges that the Brazilians will pose the biggest threat to his gold medal ambitions and is therefore training seven hours a day five times a week.
“Working on my power is crucial and that is what I’m working on as people are very strong these days.
“Black belt fighters have a lot of different ways to train, so I’m working on a combination of power and strength techniques,” explained Al Ketbi.