Young Emirati jiu-jitsu star Omar Al Fadhli believes mental preparation will be the biggest challenge for the national team when they return to action later this year in the aftermath of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) resumed training with a closed door high performance camp at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi last month following three months of inactivity following the coronavirus pandemic.
The camp was partly to prepare for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (World Pro) rescheduled for November.
Al Fadhli said getting back into shape physically should not be an issue for high-performance athletes, but overcoming the psychological toll of the coronavirus will "test us mentally" and require even more dedication.
He said: “Physically you can just resume your training and get into good shape in three months because that is science. But fighters have to be mentally stronger and believe in themselves.
“It is not an ideal situation that we are in but when fighters come back they need to have a stronger mindset and determination.
“They have to work extra hard to regain their levels. When I come back, I am going to double or triple my efforts. I am going to give 200 per cent.
“Mental strength is key, physical levels can be regained, but your determination and focus will need to be at its strongest.”
Al Fadhli, 19, enjoyed his best season in 2019, winning gold medals in the youth and adult categories at the Jiu-Jitsu International Union's (JJIF) World Championship and the World Pro in Abu Dhabi. He rounded his year off in style with victory at the Munich Open in Germany.
Omar Al Fahdli wins double gold at JJIF Worlds
His feats were even more impressive considering the teenager had to overcome a broken arm.
“For me, 2020 is almost over but 2019 was one of the best years of my life,” he said.
“I learnt a lot about myself. I suffered a broken arm and the injury taught me a lot and tested my maturity, and taught me never to give up.
“Physically, I was virtually destroyed after the injury. I had to work on my mental strength and my return to competition proved successful.”
Al Fadhli's success at the JJIF Worlds was the second year in succession he won gold medals at both youth and adult level. “A personal milestone for me,” he said.
“I have kind of put my legacy there on the Worlds. It was hard for me, the pressure to keep up my performances in both categories but glad to accomplish that feat.
“When I was young, it was a tough thing to imagine winning a medal at even one of those events. Maybe I thought I could win the youth but the seniors was always something that I thought was very hard to achieve.
“But I did it, thank god, with all that hard work. I am confident that I have what it takes to repeat the double for a third year in a row if provided with the opportunity.”