Jiu-jitsu chases Olympic dream with 2022 Youth Games in sights

The National - News - - SPORT - AMITH PAS­SELA

Jiu-jitsu missed the cut for the 2024 Olympics in Paris but chances of the sport mak­ing a first ap­pear­ance at the 2022 Youth Olympics are high, ac­cord­ing to the Jiu-Jitsu In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion (JJIF) pres­i­dent Pana­gi­o­tis Theodor­opou­los.

“Our case for the Olympics will not come up for recog­ni­tion un­til 2021 and that’s too late for 2024,” Theodor­opou­los told The Na­tional on the side­lines of the JJIF World Cham­pi­onship at the Mubadala Arena yes­ter­day.

“I’m cer­tain our case will be heard and recog­nised in two years from now. There is a lot of mar­tial arts in the Olympics. For in­stance, karate was in­cluded in 2020 but not in 2024.

“So, we have to keep work­ing for 2028 but the good thing is that we get to start from the Youth Olympics. We have al­ready started work for Dakar 2022.”

The mar­tial arts sport made its bow at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and is in­cluded in the Hangzhou 2022 games in China.

“The way jiu-jitsu has evolved we are cer­tain it will even­tu­ally get into the Olympics, which is our long-term ob­jec­tive and dream,” Theodor­opou­los said.

“But right now, we are ex­cited about the prospect of jiu-jitsu at the Youth Olympics. The sport is al­ready prac­ticed widely in Sene­gal but we want to spread it far and wide to make it big­ger, not only in the coun­try but across the re­gion.

“It’s very im­por­tant for us be­cause our strength is young peo­ple. We have dis­cussed with the gov­ern­ment of Sene­gal.

“Plans are al­ready un­der­way to stage an African Cham­pi­onship in Sene­gal next year. The idea is to have more ath­letes for the Youth Olympics from the re­gion.”

The JJIF con­ducts eight to nine com­pe­ti­tions ev­ery year, which in­clude five Grand Prix’s, the Con­ti­nen­tal Cham­pi­onship for both youth and adults, and the worlds for youth and adults.

The JJIF signed a three-year con­tract to stage both the youth and se­nior world cham­pi­onships in Abu Dhabi.

“This is the first time we have com­bined both the youth and adult com­pe­ti­tions to­gether at the same venue and time pe­riod,” the Greek na­tive added.

“It has gone well so far. Abu Dhabi has the ca­pac­ity to han­dle it and it can get only big­ger as this will be here the next two years as well.

“This can be the trend in the fu­ture but we’ll have to see if other coun­tries have the ca­pac­ity like Abu Dhabi.”

Abu Dhabi has taken the lead in pro­mot­ing and de­vel­op­ing the sport world­wide.

The Abu Dhabi World Tour con­sists of six Grand Slam events in Tokyo, Los An­ge­les, Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi, Moscow and Lon­don.

The Abu Dhabi World Pro­fes­sional Jiu-Jitsu Cham­pi­onship draws the big­gest par­tic­i­pa­tion now – 10,000 par­tic­i­pant com­pet­ing across two weeks. It also boasts the big­gest prize money of Dh1mil­lion.

The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Fed­er­a­tion runs a world rank­ing sys­tem and the cham­pi­ons crowned ev­ery year in April. “They have the best pro­gramme for the sport to de­velop in the UAE from grass­roots and their or­gan­i­sa­tional acu­men is top class, in­clud­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

“Abu Dhabi gave a big push for the sport world­wide. We had a 10-year plan but we have achieved almost ev­ery­thing we planned in the four years we have been work­ing to­gether.”

UAEJJF

Pana­gi­o­tis Theodor­opou­los is fight­ing for jiu-jistu’s in­clu­sion in 2028 Olympics, af­ter it missed the cut for Paris 2024

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