The Brazilians made a clean sweep of the 16 gold medals up for grabs in the black belt divisions at the Al Ain Open, the opening event of the jiu-jitsu season.
That was not surprising, though, as more than 500 Brazilian black belts have arrived as instructors in the country as part of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s ambitious development drive to promote the sport at grassroots level.
Jose Junior’s double gold in winning the 94-plus kilogramme weight and the absolute class was the highlight of the second and final day of the competition at UAE University in Al Ain.
He got the better of compatriot Jiddu Nastos Lemos in the weight division and completed the double with victory over Marcos Costa in another all-Brazilian final in the open weight.
Junior has been in the UAE for more than six years. He started as an instructor in the Abu Dhabi Education Council’s jiu-jitsu school program and has now been promoted to extracurricular activities manager.
“I take part in the local competitions regularly, and whenever I win I dedicate them to those kids practising jiu-jitsu to become future champions,” the Brazilian said.
He still spends four hours training six days a week to keep himself in good shape.
“It is hard work but the joy of winning and to motivate the kids far outweighs all the sacrifices,” he said.
“The best way to motivate the kids is by example, and that’s what we achieve when we compete. The fights were very tough, particularly when you come across two world champions in the two different categories. There were also some new arrivals who joined the school programme and they were pretty tough, too.”
Junior had to overcome Lucio Rodrigues in the 94kg-plus category and Andre Campos in the open, both in the semi-finals.
Rodrigo Souza made a winning debut after joining as an instructor in the school programme seven months ago.
“I was very happy to demonstrate to my pupils what one can achieve with hard work and discipline,” said the Brazilian, a gold medallist in the Pan American Games who won the 77kg black belt Masters-2 final.
“This is my first appearance in a local competition since arriving in Abu Dhabi. This is an amazing place to practice jiu-jitsu.
“The Emirati kids here are very fortunate to enjoy such excellent facilities. There are some extremely talented kids with the drive to become world champions, and I am sure they can achieve those lofty ambitions if they continue to work hard.”
Brazilians Marina Ribeiro and Maria Damasceno took the gold in the women’s brown and blue belts open divisions, respectively, while Emirati Shamsa Hasan took gold in the blue belt 55kg.
The Brazilians amassed 32 golds overall in the two-day competition, including 16 in the opening day’s competition in the No Gi division (without the traditional costume).
Emiratis accounted for 75 medals, including 24 golds. They earned 10 golds, 14 silver and 12 bronze medals on the first day and added 14 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze on the second day.
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