Dubai: The UAE’s champion jet-ski rider Ali Al Lanjawi, a gold and silver medallist at the just-concluded 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, now looks at conquering new horizons. The Dubai-headquartered Victory Team signed him on as their second driver for the 2018 F4 World Powerboat Championship this season.
“For me, this is so much like a dream,” Al Lanjawi told Gulf News after being welcomed into the Victory Team fold.
“As a young boy I used to watch others with admiration from the Jumeirah Beach. I used to think that one day I want to be like them. Today, I have crossed the first hurdle by winning at the Asian Games. Now it is time to turn my attention to the international stage and challenge myself to bring honour to my country,” he added after the announcement in the presence of Huraiz Bin Huraiz, chairman of the board of directors of Victory Team along with Mohammad Al Mutawaei, vice-chairman of the board, member Ganem Al Merri and former multiple world champion Scott Gillman.
In Indonesia, the 37-year-old father of five opened with a gold medal in the Runabout Limited category and then came back strongly on the third day adding a silver in the Runabout Open Endurance Race as the UAE ended with their best-ever medal haul at an Asian Games with 14 (three gold, six silver and five bronze).
“I have known most of the riders who were participating in Indonesia. They are all world class and former champions. But, I had just one focus in mind and that was to never look back. A gold medal is all that I was after,” Al Lanjawi said.
“Impossible means nothing to me. For me, it is about having a challenge and then pursuing this goal with everything that I have,” he insisted.
Growing up along Dubai’s coastline, Al Lanjawi knew early on that his life would be dedicated on the waters. He bought his own jet-ski when he was 18 and then went about chasing a dream.
Despite starting late, goaded on by close friend Anwar Nimr from Dubai Police, Al Lanjawi was a serious challenger on the domestic jet-ski scene. And by 2010, he had started winning. “The best lessons I learnt was when I failed to win,” Al Lanjawi recollected.
“These were times that helped me become tougher as I would never allow any failure to bring me down. I knew I had the mental strength and fortitude to fight all things. All I needed was to continue with the hard work and the results would show,” he added.
2017 was a breakthrough year for Al Lanjawi as he first clinched top honours in the World Aquabike Championships held in Arizona and then added the European crown in the Runabout and Endurance categories. “The two results proved to me first that I was ready to step on to something bigger. Three months before the Asian Games I was informed by Ganem [Al Merri] that I would need to be in Indonesia,” he recalled.
“In the past few years, I have been more at the beach than my own family. But they understand that I am doing something while pushing myself. My family has been a constant support,” he added.
With former four-time world champion Gillman at the helm, Al Lanjawi has already started testing his F4 boat. Later this week, he will travel to China to take a close look at Victory Team operations.
“He’s a definite asset. Some of our top drivers have come through the ranks of jet-ski racing. Ali holds a lot of promise and I am convinced that he will start shinning on the international stage very soon,” Bin Huraiz said.
“He has taken the plunge. He will not only survive, but he will come out as probably the best in the business,” he added.