ABU DHABI, 28th November, 2022 (WAM) -- Zayed Al Katheeri made history when he became the first Emirati black belt to earn a gold medal at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC).
Now, ten days on and his achievement having fully sunk in, the 22-year-old has spoken about the incredible feat he made on the final day of the 14th edition of the competition and revealed it has only made him more determined to reach new heights.
Al Katheeri defeated Brazilian Nathannael Fernandes in the 56kg Professional division final at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Zayed Sports City on 19th November. The Emirati believes the referee's decision was in his favour after a scoreless tie because he was more offensive in his approach.
"The 2022 season was intense - it was my first year as a black belt," said Al Katheeri, who finished the year with ten medals, including gold at the sixth Asian Championships in Manama in March.
"This year was very special for me because I earned my black belt in jiu-jitsu. Even though I'm still learning and developing my skills in this class, I was able to take home several gold medals at the biggest regional and AJP competitions. I'm proud of my performance at the World Pro of course, but I think I can do even better," the UAE national team member added.
The Baniyas club star took home Best Asian Player at the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Awards last Saturday, the annual ceremony to recognise those who have excelled throughout the season. Al Katheeri said the best is yet to come and that he will double down on his efforts to improve further in the upcoming months.
"Now it's time to assess the calendar with my coaches - the major goal for me will be to represent the UAE in upcoming events across the world," Al Katheeri said, a prodigy of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu School Programme, which was designed in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, to support sports and athletes in the country.
According to Al Katheeri, the one factor that most significantly contributes to his recurrent triumphs is his commitment - he has never skipped a training session.
"I follow a rigorous workout routine. Every day, I have four training sessions. I have dedicated almost six years per day to preparations; putting a special emphasis on honing my technical skills, drills, physical training, and sparring," he added. "To be honest, I'm aware of my strengths, limitations, and areas for improvement. I'll build on my talents and get through my own obstacles in the upcoming competitions."
Al Katheeri took gold in the 12th edition of the ADWPJJC in April 2022, fighting in the brown belt division. He had to skip the 13th edition in November after suffering injury. His return to such a high competitive level and subsequent accomplishments testify to the effectiveness of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation's strategy for fostering a community of jiu-jitsu practitioners and hosting international competitions in the nation's capital. The Jiu-Jitsu International Federation recently complimented both the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) and UAE Jiu-Jitsu School Programme for their respective roles in discovering and nurturing the nation's best talents.
"I want to reiterate that the UAEJJF deserves all the credit for whatever little I have accomplished because it has made it possible for the players to compete at the top levels," Al Katheeri said. "The Federation is always keen to foster a culture of victory, tenacity, and perseverance among the players. The feeling of victory is incomparable, but I feel the enormous responsibility placed on my shoulders. Achieving successes is wonderful, but maintaining that is a completely different matter."