Al Ham­madi ready to face ‘big test’ at In­door Games

Emi­rati is part of the coun­try’s 23-strong jiu-jitsu squad com­pet­ing in Turk­menistan, writes Amith Pas­sela

The National - News - - SPORT -

While Faisal Al Ketbi’s name is one of the first pen­cilled in when­ever the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Fed­er­a­tion name a team for com­pe­ti­tion, the scram­bling for places to join him is an in­tense one.

Al Ketbi, the most suc­cess­ful and high­est-ranked Emi­rati fighter, has be­come in­dis­pens­able to the na­tional team.

Be­hind the cap­tain, the UAEJJF has a pool of around 40 elite fight­ers to choose from for re­gional and in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments.

One of those is Saood Al Ham­madi, who made the cut for the 23-strong squad – 16 men and seven women – who flew out of Abu Dhabi on Friday for the fifth Asian In­door and Mar­tial Arts Games in Ash­ga­bat, Turk­menistan.

“I was a late starter in jiu-jitsu at 22,” he said.

“I may have im­pressed the selec­tors with my re­sults and per­for­mances that I was picked for the na­tional team two years later and have been in the squad all through this pe­riod.”

Hav­ing first rep­re­sented the UAE at the European Cup six years ago, Al Ham­madi had strug­gled to ce­ment a per­ma­nent place in the Emi­rati squad un­til re­cently.

He was on the UAE team at the Asian Beach Games in Thai­land in July, win­ning a sil­ver medal in the 77-kilo­gram weight di­vi­sion, and last month’s Asian Cham­pi­onship in Viet­nam, in which he missed out on a bronze.

Al Ham­madi was picked for a 25-day train­ing camp in Brazil ahead of the event in Ash­ga­bat and hopes a good show­ing in the Turk­menistan cap­i­tal will fi­nally see him nail down a reg­u­lar place along­side Al Ketbi.

“In Brazil, I worked with the coaches to rem­edy all of my flaws of the past two com­pe­ti­tions, and also a few new tricks,” he said be­fore the team’s de­par­ture on Friday.

“Ash­ga­bat is the big­gest test for me and I want to make best use of the op­por­tu­nity to fix my place in the na­tional team.

“It is a big step up at the Games but if you want to be in the team one has to be pre­pared to take on the best.

“I have worked harder than be­fore and quite con­fi­dent to re­turn with a good re­sult.”

Un­like other full-time prac­ti­tion­ers in the UAE squad, Al Ham­madi said he has to bal­ance train­ing around work and fam­ily.

“When you have the pas­sion you’ll find the time to di­vide be­tween work, fam­ily and jiu-jitsu,” said Al Ham­madi, who works for Ad­noc as a drilling en­gi­neer and has two chil­dren ages three and two.

“I was into fit­ness and spent a lot of time in the gym do­ing strength train­ing.

“I came across lot of guys in jiu-jitsu and thought I’ll try.

“I en­joyed my first few weeks and was suc­cess­ful in the lower di­vi­sions when I first be­gan.

“I think all the strength train­ing, which I had been do­ing for a long time, be­came very use­ful to me as it was one of the core re­quire­ments for the mar­tial art.

“Then I man­aged to learn the tech­ni­cal as­pect of jiu-jitsu quickly.”

Al Ham­madi is a pur­ple belt, but since there are no grad­ing clas­si­fi­ca­tions in con­ti­nen­tal com­pe­ti­tions he will most likely have to over­come fight­ers higher up the rank­ings to se­cure a medal.

Not that this fazes him. “It’s go­ing to be the best from every coun­try in Asia,” he said.

“My two re­cent com­pe­ti­tions were both against Asian op­po­nents but Ash­ga­bat will be a trial for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta in ex­actly a year. So, this is the big one.”

Al Ham­madi is one of 16 men on the na­tional team vy­ing for seven gold medals.

The seven-strong women’s con­tin­gent are vy­ing for six medals.

The 10-day Games in Ash­ga­bat be­gins to­day, with the jiu-jitsu com­pe­ti­tion slated for to­mor­row and Tues­day.

The UAE have trav­elled with a 96-mem­ber con­tin­gent to com­pete in seven of the 21 sports: jiu-jitsu, in­door foot­ball, ath­let­ics, cy­cling, bowl­ing, chess and cue sports.

Reem Mo­hammed / The Na­tional

Saood Al Ham­madi says he was a late starter in jiu-jitsu, aged 22

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