UAE Jiu Jitsu Team wins 24 medals in Rio

Al Hamadi has been crowned champion in every belt category he has competed, but said winning in the modern home of the sport is extra special. (UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation)

Like the lion emblazoned across the front of his white t-shirt, Yahia Al Hamadi had staked out his target, waited patiently, pounced, and devoured. The victory completed a double medal haul at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Slam World Tour in Rio de Janeiro, yet the Emirati was not the only UAE success story to come out of the two-day event.

The UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation brought a 27-athlete delegation to Brazil and, despite competing in the strongest and largest field of the season, finished the weekend with 24 medals, including 15 golds and four silvers. Faisal Al Ketbi, an Abu Dhabi-born black belt who had finished second in the Tokyo round last month, went one better on Sunday, holding out to beat his Brazilian opponent Pedro Agrizzi in front of a boisterous crowd.

“I am very happy; it has been a great event,” said Mohamed Humaid bin Dalmouj, board member of the UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF). “The spectator turnout has been fantastic, the competition is the highest level we have ever seen at an Abu Dhabi Grand Slam event, and, if we are honest, our UAE team has won more medals than we expected. Without doubt, this has been our most successful event yet.”

Al Hamadi had labored to victory in a tactical battle on Saturday against Thiago Barbosa to claim gold in the 108kg Gi brown belt division. On Sunday, in the non-Gi event, he returned better prepared, having researched his final opponent, Vander Francisco, online and switching up his style to counteract his opponent.

“The first final was very difficult, very tactical and I spent much of the fight trying to figure out my opponent,” the Emirati said backstage at the $100,000 event inside the Rio Arena at Olympic Park. “The second final was similar, but I had prepared accordingly, studying his technique on YouTube, and changed my own technique in case he had done similar research. Changing my style is something I’ve been working on for a while because in four months I expect to become black belt.”

Al Hamadi has been crowned champion in every belt category he has competed, but said winning in the modern home of the sport is extra special. “I am very excited to have won, especially here in Brazil, where the sport is so popular,” he said. “I came here hoping to triumph, but I did not expect to win on both days, so I am delighted to have achieved this.”

More than 2,000 athletes registered for the event, with the vast majority — 1,864 registrants — travelling from across Brazil for a rare chance to win prize money, as well as flight tickets to the UAE capital for January’s final round of the World Tour. The raucous atmosphere inside the arena was at times deafening as friends, family members and coaches screamed instructions and encouragement from the bleachers.

“It’s always special competing in Brazil because the people here take the sport so seriously; you can see it in the crowds, they love it,” said Faisal Al Ketbi, speaking on the sidelines as contests continued on the arena’s 10 mats behind him. “After losing in the final in Japan, I was determined to get gold here and fortunately my level has risen so I was able to do a very good job.”

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52