ABU DHABI: The 13th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, the sport’s largest event on the global calendar, kicked off on Sunday with the age group categories taking center-stage at the six-day event.
Athletes between the ages of 4 and 17 took to 11 mats at the packed Jiu-Jitsu Arena in a series of matches across the infant, junior, teen and juvenile categories.
Running until Nov. 19, the 13th ADWPJJC has attracted 4,000 athletes to the end-of-season tournament, and while elite athletes will compete later in the week, day one belonged to the youngsters.
The Best Academy Boys title was won by the Kazakhstan National Team (1,843 points) ahead of Al-Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club (1,327 points) and Sharjah Self Defence Club (1320 points).
In the girls’ championship, the Best Academy crown was won by Palm Sports 777 (1,165 points), with Al-Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club second (1,155 points) and Al-Jazira Club (1,035 points) in third.
“Day one of the ADWPJJC is always a special occasion as we get to see the future champions of our sports right here on the mats at the Jiu Jitsu Arena, the global home of jiu-jitsu. However, today exceeded all our expectations,” said Mohammed Salem Al-Dhaheri, vice president of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
“The level of participation, from within the UAE and across the world, shows (the) great dedication of the athletes and their families, and underlines the work we are doing as a federation to raise awareness of this sport that teaches us so much. There were some truly exceptional performances, but the real success was the level of respect and support the athletes had for one another.
“Thanks to the ongoing support of our country’s wise leadership and the dedication of the parents and coaches, who devote time and effort in helping to shape our young athletes, today has shown us the sport is on the right track,” he added.
One of those athletes who made the long trip to Abu Dhabi was Alanis Dos Santos, who came all the way from Brazil. The 14-year-old’s efforts paid off as she took gold in the Teen Girls -57kg orange belt final.
“Today is something really big for me, really special. It’s a privilege just to come here and compete, so to win a gold makes it even better,” said Dos Santos. “Abu Dhabi gives so much importance to jiu-jitsu and it’s made me want to come and compete here this year. I have flown in specifically for this competition and I am happy I was able to win. In future I want to come back and win here again.”
Dzhamal Ruzakhunov, 14, also made a successful trip with the Kazakhstan delegation for the back-to-back mega events — last week’s Ju-Jitsu World Championship, and ADWPJJC.
“This is very important for me. I won bronze at the JJWC so to win gold this week is very special. Our country is looking to us to be successful, so this is a great feeling. I came to Abu Dhabi just for these tournaments,” said Ruzakhunov after his gold medal in the Teen Boys yellow-black belt category.
“My country has been sending teams here to compete in these championships for many years because the organization is very good. I’m hoping to use this as a springboard for more medals.”
The UAE’s athletes are also hoping to use ADWPJJC success as a catapult to future victories. Shoug Al-Blooshi, 14, took bronze in the Teen Girls -75kg yellow belt division. She said: “It’s great to get a medal. Moving forward I want to help people off the mat. I want to be a doctor. In jiu-jitsu I want to be a champion.”
Shaikha Mabkhoot Al-Katheeri was one of a number of Emirati athletes to top the podium on a thrilling first day of action. The 17-year-old was in fine form to win gold in the Teen Girls blue belt to help Al-Jazira Jiu-Jitsu Club take third place in the Girls Academy standings.
“I’ve been practicing really hard for this championship and winning this gold proves that hard work is worth it. It has paid off. This arena is like home for me. I have been competing in this championship for 10 years and I’ve managed to top the podium in the past. However, I must keep working hard and improving. I want to compete internationally for my country, so this will give me confidence,” said Al-Katheeri.
ADWPJJC action continues Monday, Nov. 15 when the over-30s take to the mats at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena.