The UAE's jiu-jitsu fighters will be out in full strength as they aim for success across eight weight divisions of both the men's and women's categories at the Asian Games in Hangzhou.
The Emirati jiu-jitsu squad accounted for the highest number of medals – two golds, five silvers and two bronze – from an overall tally of three golds, six silvers and five bronzes at the 2018 Games in Jakarta.
They topped the medals table in the Asian Championship in Bangkok in March, the Jiu-Jitsu International Union (JJIU) World Championship in Ulan Bator in July and the Youth World Championship in Astana in August. Needless to say, the UAE contingent is raring to go.
“We are going in full of confidence and looking forward to make history,” Faisal Al Ketbi, national team captain and the most decorated UAE jiu-jitsu fighter, told The National.
“Our past results in the lead-up to the Games reflect the hard work and the dedication we put into ourselves and into our job and our passion to represent the UAE in the best possible way.
“The last time, when jiu-jitsu was first included at the Games, we won two golds, five silvers and two bronze with a smaller team. This time there are eight gold medals on offer and our goal is to win a medal or two in every weight division, both in men and women.”
Al Ketbi, 35, is aiming for a second Asian Games gold medal. He is the only remaining member of the UAE jiu-jitsu team from the 2018 Games.
“We did very well at the last Games, and this time we are better equipped both technically and physically, and [armed] with the experience we have had in the lead-up to Hangzhou,” he said.
“The majority of the athletes in this squad graduated from the youth division and they are certain to make a big difference. I’m very happy and very confident with this squad to achieve more than what we achieved in 2018.”
The jiu-jitsu squad had a preparatory camp in the USA before flying into Hangzhou a few days before the start of the Games on September 23.
“At the camp in the US, we worked mainly on strategies and sharpening our techniques, and elevating our conditioning and making sure we go into the fights 100 per cent prepared both mentally and physically,” Al Ketbi said.
“My goal obviously is to win a second gold of the Games for me and the UAE, and support my teammates to achieve medals. We have had a remarkable year, topping the medals table at the continental championship and the JJIU World Championships.
“We won six golds from a possible seven in the Asian Championships and feel that we have a great opportunity to take home a rich haul and elevate the UAE’s position in the overall medals table at the Asian Games.”
The UAE so far have won six medals - one gold, a silver and three bronze in judo - and another bronze in cycling, in the men’s omnium.
UAE women’s squad: Balqees Abdulla (48kg), Hamdah Al Shkeili (48kg), Asma Al Hosani (52kg), Hessa Al Shamsi (52kg), Shamsa Al Ameri (57kg), Haya Al Jhoori (57kg), Shamma Al Kalbani (63kg), Muhra Mahfoodh (63kg)
UAE men’s squad: Khalid Al Blooshi (62kg), Khaled Al Shehi (62kg), Mohamed Al Suwaidi (69kg), Sultan Jabr (69kg), Faraj Al Awlaqi (77kg), Mahdi Al Awlaqi (77kg). Faisal Al Ketbi (85kg), Saeed Al Kubaisi (85kg)