ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia’s Abdulmalik Al Murdhi claimed a silver medal in the men’s 62 kg category at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City as the UAE national team won three more medals to leave the nation’s athletes in first-place in the overall rankings in NeWaza ahead of Thursday’s finale.
With male and female athletes from 60 nations taking to the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship mats this week, the UAE team’s hat-trick of medals on Wednesday adds to the record-breaking haul secured by the nation’s youth, who dominated the Under-18 and Under-21 competitions earlier this week.
Going into the adult competitions, the UAE led the championship’s overall standings with 46 medals, ahead of RJF (36) and Kazakhstan (33). The UAE’s lofty position followed the heroic efforts of the nation’s Under-16, Under-18 and Under-21 athletes, who claimed a record haul of 16 golds, 14 silvers, and 16 bronze medals during three days of relentless competition.
The UAE claimed two gold medals on Wednesday, starting with Zayed Al Khateeri eclipsing South Korea’s Hyuck Ju Yim in a tight contest in the men’s 56kg final.
“We are the reigning champions of this competition, so it’s the entire team’s responsibility to defend the title,” said Al Khateeri. “The final was close, and my opponent was really strong. I was two points behind with two minutes left, so I knew I needed to get back in the game. I realised my opponent wanted to defend the lead, so I went all offense. He tried to escape to the outside of the mat, which resulted in a penalty and I took the lead. I think I handled the situation well under pressure; it was one of my best performances.”
Minutes later compatriot Omar Al-Fadhli edged out Saudi Arabia’s Abdulmalik Al-Murdhi in an all-Gulf contest to win the men’s 62kg category. After his victory, Al-Fadhli said: “The match was hard, but we got the win. Two years ago, I was the only UAE athlete to get two medals, but this year is different, I have definitely faced stronger opponents. The last bout was close, my strategy was to accumulate points and hold the lead, which I did!”
After a tough day on the mats for the country’s leading male and female athletes, Hessa Al Shamsi — who secured the UAE’s third medal of the day, a bronze in the women’s 52kg category — said the world-class competition at this week’s championship is ideal preparation for next week’s Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2021.
“The standard is incredibly high in all weight classes, and the team needs to be at the top of our game to get anywhere near the top of our categories, let alone the medals. It’s tough but it is also a welcome reminder of the standards we need to reach – we want to be a top jiu-jitsu nation,” said Al Shamsi.
Following the day’s action, Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, Secretary-General of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, praised the team: “Our confidence in our players has no limits. They put in a great performance today, despite facing very tough opponents. These tournaments, the advantages are providing the players with more experience and confidence so they can compete to a higher level in future tournaments. The team’s overall achievement up to today is approaching almost 50 medals, which is a wonderful achievement in such a world-class tournament.”
Dr. Marwan Al Kaabi, Acting Group Chief Operating Officer at Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA), said: “The UAE is among the top-ranking countries in various fields, especially in the health sector and in organising world-class events, especially the Ju-Jitsu World Championship, which is proudly supported by SEHA.”