Competitors at Abu Dhabi Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship target world domination

All of Wednesday’s winners at the tournament, being held in the UAE capital, are ambitious enough to target a black belt and reach the pinnacle of the sport, Amith Passela reports.

Latifa Ali Al Shamsi of UAE fights compatriot Boshra Ghanem Al Zadjali in their 38.5kg match at the Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // All of Wednesday’s winners at the Abu Dhabi Junior World Jiu-Jitsu Championship want be a black belt and reach the pinnacle of the sport.

Not everyone will make it, of course, but a few future world champions were probably in action at the FGB Arena.

Christina Zynko, 15, from the United States believes she “definitely” can make it big in the sport.

Her two older siblings are professional ballet dancers and she says she knows what it takes to become a professional athlete.

“And I have my family behind me,” She said. “My parents support me a lot they travel all over with me. They came with me to Abu Dhabi just to support me.”

Zynko bagged the gold medal in the female white-blue juvenile 56.5kg with victory over Claudia Beer of South Africa in the final on Wednesday at the FGB Arena at the Zayed Sports City.

The Florida resident is a green belt but was eligible at lower rank as she was competing against older girls between 16 and 17.

Zynko arrived in Abu Dhabi after winning her passage from the trials in New York and said it was a “real good experience” to compete and win in her maiden overseas championship.

“I am really excited winning in Abu Dhabi. This medal means so much for me. I have taken part in countless competitions back home but this is my favourite and best so far,” she said.

“I want to come back next year, hopefully. I want to compete around the world and be the best. And then I want to be a pro jiu-jitsu fighter and travel all over the world.”

Zynko trains under the Florida-based Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, the super heavyweight Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter, whom she says is her role model.

“I definitely think I can make it,” she said. “I train four days a week with the pro athletes in my gymnasium. There are so many world champions there and I know what it takes and I am already getting on it.”

Zynko has been doing jiu-jitsu for only four years and is aware of the long road and hard task ahead.

“I used to accompany my dad to watch jiu-jitsu and he asked me if I wanted to try and I said yes. I have now taken part in countless competitions and with this win in Abu Dhabi I will keep a count,” she said.

The children’s competition over two days saw more than 1,500 take part in 128 different categories.

“It has been an incredible two days for some of the aspiring young boys and girls to put to test their skills in an international stage,” said Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, the chief executive of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and the general secretary of the Asian Jiu-Jitsu Union.

“We witnessed twice the number of competitors in the children’s division than in the previous year. The Emirati participation, both boys and girls, has been overwhelming.”

The action from Thursday through to Saturday shifts on to the world’s best men and women vying for a slice of the Dh1.6million prize fund in the sixth Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

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