Dubai: When UAE champion Zack Bajric arrived for the Red Bull King of The Rock Finals in Alcatraz in San Francisco, his confidence took a beating looking at the other contenders who were much bigger and stronger in size.

A total of 64 players from 19 countries were facing off to emerge champion. But Bajric kept his focus and battled tough opponents to create history by winning the bronze.

“Honestly, I had never imagined to win, especially looking at their physical appearances,” Bajric told XPRESS.

“But when I started winning I realised I’m actually better than many of them,” he added.

Amidst the crumbling walls and the eerily lit cell house in front of hundreds of spectators, including guest host, basketball All-Star Blake Griffin, the players battled each other on the cracked and cold concrete in The Yard.

The players relied on endurance and composure as they battled through fierce competition, cold temperatures and the worn concrete courts. With four half courts in simultaneous game play, the action was intense and almost non-stop.

Bajric lost a close battle in the semi-finals which he said was made difficult due to the weather. “The most difficult thing about playing at The Rock was the weather. The windy conditions really make it difficult for me as I rely a lot on my shooting. The bigger guys have a very big advantage not only because they are bigger and stronger, but because they play inside and under the basket. For me it was difficult shooting from the outside because of the high winds on the island,” he said.

Bajric battled his way through five rounds against various opponents.

“This is one of the biggest achievements I have ever had in my life. I played professionally in Europe for many years but these guys I was facing were simply enormous. I was also by far one of the shortest players out there, so I knew it would be an extremely tough day.

“I had decided that I would give pretty much all of my game and I knew if I play the best I can make the difference. I had the speed and I took good advantage of that,” he said, talking about his gameplan.

Bajric revealed he was now focussed on making it again next year and working hard towards it.

“I’m obsessed with this now. I’m not sleeping until I’m back there again. I will definitely try and go another step ahead. I will plan my schedule well ahead and work on my game accordingly.”

The UAE champ claimed his spot in Alcatraz after he had qualified from the UAE Finals following three qualifying rounds held in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi earlier this year.