Haitham Hanawi bagged gold for the UAE in the Masters category of the 13th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
The Emirati outclassed Slovakian Michal Malata in the Masters-1 purple belt 62-kilogram final by points 7-0 at the Zayed Sports City’s Jiu-Jitsu Arena on Monday.
“I wasn’t sure if I could participate in this championship as I had a small side strain that kept me out of training for two weeks. But I took a chance and it proved worthwhile,” Hanawi said.
“I won bronze in the last edition of this championship five months ago and am glad to take gold this time. It’s even better because I wasn’t sure I would have competed this time.”
Hanawi overcame Sri Lankan Thisara Ranaviru by points 2-1 in the first round and Kuwaiti Ibrahim Al Duwaisan, also by points 4-3, in the semi-finals.
“I felt the impact of not training for two weeks as I had to go through three very tough fights. But that’s expected when you compete at this level,” he added.
“Having got through them and then becoming the only gold medallist on the day for the UAE makes all my efforts worth it.
“With so many fights taking place at the same time, I didn’t realise my achievement on the day until someone told me ‘that was the only gold for us’ when I was climbing the podium. I’m so happy I made it.”
The hosts finished the day with a gold, three silvers (Naser Al Breiki, Faisal Ibraheem and Mahra Al Kaabi) and a bronze from Zainalla Al Kurbi.
Meanwhile, Farid Mammadov of Azerbaijan proved it’s never too late pick up a sport, even at the age of 37.
Mammadov, who took up jiu-jitsu just one year ago, struck gold with victory over Russian Efim Glinkin in the Masters-2 blue belt 77kg while representing local club Al Wasl of Dubai.
“I had been practicing wrestling as a sport and switched to jiu-jitsu a year ago,” Mammadov, who was promoted to purple belt immediately after his success, said.
“I have been competing in all local competitions and won silver at the last Abu Dhabi World Pro.
“This sport is like playing chess. It doesn’t need strength alone but a lot of thinking behind every move you make. I love this sport. I wish I had started long time back but it’s better late than never to venture into a new combat sport.”
Kazakhstan topped the medals table on the night with 11 golds, four silvers and three bronze, with the Russians close in second with nine golds, seven silvers and seven bronze.