Jakarta: The pressure is palpable in the UAE camp as after five days into the 18th Asian Games they are yet to open their accounts in the medals tally.
The onus is clearly on the national jiu-jitsu team to deliver and on Friday there are three gold medals in the offing — two for the men and one for the women — as the sport makes its debut on Asia’s biggest sporting stage.
The UAE national team head coach Ramon Lemos was perhaps the only person at ease at the Convention Hall where the weighing and the draw for the event took place.
“We had a very good camp. Our fighters have done their bit and are waiting for the competition to begin. If you ask me if they can reach the medal rounds I will say yes, they all will but that’s not how it works,” said the Brazilian, who has asked his wards to stay as calm as possible.
“I think we need to control the emotion. I tell my students that there is one line and you have to be aware of it. Sometimes you go above it thinking I have done everything and I’m the best. So you have to be guard against it,” added Lemos, who took over the national side a year ago.
“In competition, especially in combat sports, the results are not guaranteed. We can achieve some good results and sometimes not. But I believe they all have the potential to reach the medal rounds for the work they have been doing for the past few months.”
Friday’s action starts with the UAE’s Wadima Al Yafei and Mahra Al Hanaei in the women’s 49kg weight. In the men’s event, Hamad Nawad and Khalid Iskander Al Balushi will battle for title in the 56kg while Talib Al Kirbi and Humaid Al Kaabi will lead UAE’s in the 69kg.
“We have prepared our fighters to be ready to meet any kind of opposition. There can be elements of surprise when you are up against the unknown. We have prepared our fighters keeping that in mind,” said Lemos.
“We expect some of the competitors to have made the switch from other martial arts. They can pose a different kind of challenge, for instance, by bringing in a mixture of wrestling and judo.”
Of the six fighters on the opening day of the competition for the UAE, Al Kirbi is the most experienced and has drawn a first-round bye. The five others are teenagers.