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ABU DHABI: The UAE national jiu-jitsu team has arrived in Birmingham, Alabama, for the World Games 2022, the international multi-sports event held every four years.

The team will have a light training session on Thursday in preparation for the competition on Friday, July 15. The games started on July 7 and will end on July 17.

Considered a global showpiece for sports yet to be included in the Olympic Games, the 11th edition features 3,600 participants from 100 nations competing across more than 30 sports.

A jiu-jitsu squad of five athletes from the UAE qualified for the games and are hoping to build on a landmark performance at the 2017 games in Warsaw, Poland. Last time out, the UAE’s Faisal Al-Ketbi captured the gold medal in the under-94-kilogram category and there is great optimism that he will repeat that feat.

Al-Ketbi, now competing in the 85-kilogram category, will be joined by compatriots Muhammad Al-Amri (77 kilograms), Muhammad Al-Suwaidi (69 kilograms), Shamma Al-Kalbani (63 kilograms) and Balqees Abdelkareem (48 kilograms).

The weigh-in of 96 jiu-jitsu players will take place on Thursday, July 14, a day before the tournament. The competition for the open weight division title will be held on Saturday, July 16.

Ramon Lemos, head coach of the UAE team, said: “Our early arrival here and the establishment of our overseas training camp is all part of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s plan for maintaining the players’ readiness and concentration in the lead-up to the competition.

“The federation and the technical staff have complete faith in the national team’s players. Each has the skills necessary to outperform the finest players from across the world. Helping our athletes maintain optimum energy and a balanced state of mind so they can perform at their best is arguably our top priority. It’s certainly the biggest goal of our technical staff.”

Lemos said qualification for the World Games is based on performances at prestigious international and continental tournaments held from 2019 to 2021.

“The participation in the World Games is limited to a group of the best and strongest players in the world ranked across every weight division,” he added. “They are each here because they earned the necessary qualifying points in various tournaments, so the competition represents a significant test not just for our athletes, but for the top athletes of every national team in the world.”

Lemos said the five UAE athletes are fitting examples of the continuing advancement of the sport in the Emirates.

“Entry into the competition is based on a specific process and a qualifying round that considers the players’ accomplishments, ranking, and predetermined weight categories. Only 96 players from all over the world have qualified to compete in jiu-jitsu at the World Games, which demonstrates the tournament’s quality.”

According to the classification of the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation, Al-Ketbi, ranked first, qualified for the World Games by winning silver medals at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi last year, and gold medals at the Asian Championship in Mongolia and the Nur Sultan Grand Prix in Kazakhstan in 2019. Al-Amri secured his spot by collecting ranking points as he captured the gold medal at the German Open Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2019. He is ranked fourth under the JJIF classification.

Al-Suwaidi earned a spot in Alabama, ranking fourth under the JJIF classification, by taking bronze medals at the Asian Championship in Abu Dhabi last year and Asian Championship in Mongolia in 2019. Al-Kalbani secured her place after ranking sixth by the federation and winning bronze in the Asian Championship in Abu Dhabi last year.

Abdelkareem qualified for the games after she won gold medals at the world championships in Abu Dhabi in 2019 and 2021.

“The team is exposed to a careful and intensive training and nutritional program to boost the players’ preparations, raise their abilities and help them identify their strengths,” said Lemos. “All that combined, we hope, will lead to them producing their greatest performances yet on the mat.”

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