Para-athletes impresses at inaugural AD Jiu-Jitsu Championships

A total of 55 contestants from 14 nations took to the mats at the IPIC Arena on Friday

Denzil Pinto
by Denzil Pinto
14th April 2017

article:14th April 2017

After four days of competition, it was the turn of the disabled athletes to prove that there are no barriers when it comes to playing sport.

A new addition to the schedule, each of the 55 contestants from 14 nations were greeted by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation chairman Abdulmunam Al Hashemi before they took to the centre mat for the Abu Dhabi World Para-Jiu-Jitsu Championships.

With no shortage of support in a vibrant IPIC Arena, it was a total different experience that they would be used to back home.

There was something to cheer for the home fans as Mohammed Essa Al Balooshi beat Kazakhstan’s Ildar Zainalov for gold.

“I had a lot of support from the home crowd today which was amazing and I wanted to win for them,” he said. “As the only Emirati para-athlete I want to show the world that the UAE can do a lot of things. The biggest support today has come from my Mum – in nine years of competing this is the first time she has ever come and watch me so I am so happy I won in front of her.”

Flavio Leonardo was one of many Brazilians to stand on top of the podium.

The 21-year-old was already familiar to jiu-jitsu before a motorbike accident 16 months ago saw him lose his left leg. Yet that didn’t stop him competing in a sport that he loves. “It’s unbelieveable to come from Brazil,” he said, who won in the Class 2 purple class.

“I won in a competition in Brazil and very excited to be here and for sure I’ll be back again next year.”

American Roland Mann, who beat Brazil’s Marcelo Silva, to win gold and hopes his peers have sent out a message that anything is possible. “We fight together as a family and there is no ego,” said the 45-year-old ex-soldier, who has been an amputee since 1995 after a motorbike accident

“I used martial arts as a recovery and show what ability is in mixed martial arts and it’s great to show what we can do.”

For Stuart Penn, he had to settle for silver after being beaten by Australia’s Sean Fong in the Class 2 C final. But the 39-year-old was left in awe of the whole surroundings.

“It was just amazing experience,” said the Briton, who was born with one fully-formed limb.

“I’m proud of what we did and wanted to make the match more entertaining and keep myself in the game. He was a strong guy and he paid a real compliment saying I was really tough to hang on and I’m really proud to be here.”