Sport continues to grab attention
ABU DHABI // Officials often throw out cliches about their sport getting “bigger and better” with each passing event, but with UAE jiu-jitsu it seemingly is a reality.
The sport, growing as quickly as any in the Emirates, has yet to show any signs of slowing down.
The 2013/14 season concluded with the two-day Ramadan Cup No-Gi competition at the Armed Forces Officers Club (AFOC) on Saturday and a new season is set to commence in September. “What we see now is quality on the mat and a growing audience at the competitions,” said Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, chief executive of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
“We had a great season with not only the ever-increasing participation in the competitions, but close and exciting competitions. If you take the Emirati fighters, they are now ready to compete in any world-class event.
“The school programme has been an overwhelming success, drawing more than 30,000 children. The growth is not confined to one segment. There is a significant increase in the number of training centres around the country. If you see today there are youth, men, women, both Emiratis as well as expatriates, practicing the martial art.”
Faisal Al Ketbi, the Emirati fighter, had to be satisfied with a semi-final defeat in the Ramadan Cup Open division, his first competition since turning black belt.
The Brazilian Pedro Duarte overcame Al Ketbi with a sweep before losing to compatriot Ricardo Evangelista in the final.
“This was my first time at the AFOC Games, and I am so happy to have won this medal,” Evangelista said. “It was very hard, as all the guys were tough.
“In these types of competitions, you can’t take anything easy. I remained focused during the match and executed my strategies well.”
Duarte, 39, has been a coach for more than two decades and arrived in Abu Dhabi six months ago.
“I have been all over Europe for more than 10 years, but I can say Abu Dhabi is the only place in the world where jiu-jitsu has developed so fast and facilitates people from every walk of life,” he said.
“My fight with Faisal was very tough and close. He is a good example of the emerging Emirati fighters in the world circuit.
“It was his first competition in the black belt, which had only the open-weight category, so reaching the semi-final was a good achievement for him.”
The Russian Abdulrakhman Bilarov was the winner of the open division in the brown belt over Jordanian Zaid Saad Sami.
“It feels good to win this medal, especially in a place like Abu Dhabi, where the sport is big,” Bilarov said.
“I compete in a lot of the competitions in Abu Dhabi, because I want to fight against the best, and in this Ramadan tournament, it is no different.”
Ahmed Suhail Al Ketbi completed a double by winning the masters blue-purple belt 76-kilogram weight division and the open class for the only two gold medals for the UAE on the night.
Russian participants dominated the 20-bout card by grabbing nine gold medals.
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE
Updated: July 13, 2014 04:00 AM