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Houra Al Ajmi with the Asian Games bronze medal in Hangzhou last year. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Sometimes destiny takes its own course. UAE’s Howra Al Ajmi had never thought a sport she took it as pastime will make her famous one day. The Emirati, who took to karate to keep herself busy, slowly got engrossed in the sport to turn professional. In 13 years, Howra has turned from novice to a champion athlete, who clinched the Asian Games bronze medal in under 50kg kumite in Hangzhou late last year.

“I became a karateka by accident. In 2010, I had a chance to enter karate to have fun during my free time,” said the 27-year-old Sharjah Ladies Club star. “My coach in the national team pushed me a lot to become a professional. He’s my idol in the sport. And after each achievement, the success has pushed me to grow and become a strong competitor to win more titles.”

The UAE secured 20 medals, including 5 gold, 5 silver, and 10 bronze, the nation’s highest-ever medal tally in the history of the quadrennial event.

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The UAE participated in the Asian Games with 140 athletes, including 102 male and 38 female athletes, who competed in 20 different sports disciplines. The nation’s athletes won medals in five disciplines: judo, jiu-jitsu, karate, equestrian and cycling. A total of 12,000 athletes from 45 nations participated in the 19th Asian Games held in September-October.

The UAE’s medal tally of 20 at the Hangzhou Asian games bettered their previous best performance at the Jakarta Asian Games held in 2018 by 7 medals. This achievement placed the UAE third among Arab countries participating in this year’s Asian Games and 16th in the overall standings, advancing four positions from the last edition.

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Hawra Al Ajmi in action during the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year. Image Credit: Source: Hawra Al Ajmi Instagram

Howra’s success in the sport has been due to her hard work and smart time management between studies and sport that has helped her win several continental honours. Apart from Asian Games bronze, the Emirati has won the bronze in Asian Karate Championships in Malacca in July last year. Howra is studying Masters in Law and aims to master both, studies and karate.

Like Olympics medal

“My goal is to study Master’s in Law, but now, I’m just focusing on my training and competition,” she added while preparing to compete in the Arab Women’s Sports Tournament, to begin in Sharjah on Friday.

The seventh edition of the Arab Women Sports Tournament, organised by the Sharjah Women’s Sports Foundation, will feature 550 sportswomen from 14 countries in eight disciplines.

“When I was in college, it was very difficult to manage between studies and training. But if you have the will you can do it. I train for 2.5 hours and sometimes three. However, the duration comes down just before a competition. My goal is to win gold medal in Asian Games. Since there is no karate in Olympics, Asian Games medal is like Olympics medal for me.”

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UAE’s another hope, fencer Fajar Al Mazrouqi aims to book her place in Olympics and aims to use the Arab Women’s Sports Tournament as the launch pad to propel her dreams.

“I am getting ready for the Arab Women’s Sports. We had a one-week training in Italy for this event and I am looking forward for this event,” said the 21-year-old Sharjah University student in Business Information System.

Giving my best

Fajar began fencing in 2015 and has won the Sheikha Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Award for Youth and has also won the Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Award in fencing in such short time.

The young Emirati is not looking far ahead for the Paris 2024 Olympics, but aims to make the most of the opportunity that comes her way at home next month. “The Arab competition is at a higher level and it helps us to learn and improve our skills. The national Olympic committee will select one player to go to Paris 2024, not sure who it will be. But I am hoping to give my best in the tournament,” she concluded.