ABU DHABI // He cut it mighty fine but Faisal Al Ketbi eventually pulled off a stirring gold-medal triumph at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in front of vociferous home support on Friday.
Al Ketbi's victory was the highlight of the penultimate day of the tournament and continued an impressive run for the UAE team in the fifth anniversary tournament. Al Ketbi beat Britain's Luke Costello to repeat last year's gold-medal win in the 100kg brown belt category, fighting back from a two-point deficit with 40 seconds left to win 3-2.
Costello had successfully executed a sweep early on, but Al Ketbi pulled off a swift guard pass for three points as time ticked on to win; the late attack, said Al Ketbi, had been a deliberate strategy after Costello had beaten Al Ketbi in a meeting in Europe earlier in the season.
"Sometimes you plan to strike at the end and something different happens, but we had planned it this way," he said.
"The tables turned on me early but I managed to fight back at the very end.
"I was trying to look at the score on screen and didn't see anything there so I needed at least two points."
Al Ketbi soaked in the atmosphere after the win, immediately saluting Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who was in attendance, and doing a little lap of honour around the auditorium. He said this year's win trumped last year's.
"This was the fifth anniversary of the event so it was even bigger than last year and more important," he said. "It is not enough to just win once or even twice, but to keep winning. I could hear the crowd chanting my name throughout and it really inspired me throughout."
Al Ketbi's gold added to the UAE's haul from Thursday of four gold, one silver and two bronze medals and still leaves the team with a good chance of winning more than the five golds they won last year.
The other big winners from Friday were the dominant Brazilian Gabrielle Garcia, who won her fourth Abu Dhabi gold medal in the over-72kg black belt category.
As expected compatriot Rudolfo Vieira also won gold in the men's 94kg black belt category.
The tournament concludes today with what is widely considered to be the most competitive open weight categories.
Al Ketbi is in contention in the purple belt for another medal, and Vieira and Garcia will both be looking to cement their reputations as the world's top jiu-jitsu fighters.