Faisal Al Ketbi reacts after winning the gold medal in the jiu-jitsu men’s 94-kg category on Saturday. Image Credit: AFP

Jakarta: If the UAE’s ace Jiu Jitsu fighter Faisal Al Ketbi continued to pursue the sport of wrestling that he was hooked on to at the age of 11, perhaps he would have represented his country at the Asian Games much earlier.

Wrestling had been an established sport in the Asian Games since 1954 and Al Ketbi’s change of heart and switch over to Jiu-Jitsu saw him make his debut at the sporting showpiece event at the age of 30.

Myengse Hwang of South Korea, left, competes against Faisal Al Ketbi of UAE during Newaza Men's 94kg Ju-jitsu finals at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta. AP

On Sunday, the man who has been the face of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu for well over a decade, was determined to make the years of wait, hard work and perspiration count. Al Ketbi struck gold for the UAE and that too in an authoritative fashion. Not even once did it look like he was never ever in control — be it the opener or the final — the Emirati simply marched his way to glory.

“Since when I was small and was a wrestler, I wanted to complete in the Asian Games. It was an honour to be here and competing,” said a beaming Al Ketbi proudly sporting the yellow metal that he had won beating Jordan’s Sami Zaid on referee’s decision after being locked 1-1 on advantage points.

“Here I’m finally with a gold and I will be proud in to say to the next generation in few years that I was there at the Asian Games in Jakarta winning one of the gold medals,” said Al Ketbi, who has won laurels in the sport around the globe.

Al Ketbi, who keeps completely to himself before any major tournament, revealed the secret of his success. “I opted for a strategic approach as we are well-versed with the rules and know how to get the advantage without even scoring the points. We know when to react and when to stall as we have worked with the best coaches in the world.”

A black belt holder in the sport and the first one to do so from the UAE, Al Ketbi revealed that he chose a very cautious approach in the final unlike his previous contests.

“I didn’t want to lose out on that gold and was really focused so that I don’t do anything wrong and end up finishing second. To be the first is always different and who doesn’t want to be number one,” said Al Ketbi, who has not given up on representing the UAE in the next Asian Games in four years’ time.

“I would like to come and compete at the Asian Games again. It won’t be easy with so many boys coming up but I will not be leaving my chair that easily.

“Whoever will come in my place and represent the UAE in the 94kg category will definitely be worth it. If I can’t make it again, I will be one of the guys to come and support the one who is taking my place,” asserts Al Ketbi, who was also confident of the sport making its Olympic debut soon.

“The chances are higher now with the way the sport has been organised. I think now we can take this sport to the Olympics. Maybe, by then, I wouldn’t be competing but for sure another generation will compete and fight for UAE.”