Jakarta: UAE’s hopes of another gold had risen with Khalfan Belhoul making it to the men’s 85kg jiu-jitsu final at the 18th Asian Games.
His teammates, including gold medallist Faisal Al Ketbi, had occupied the best possible seats closest to the mat to egg him on.
Belhoul, however, couldn’t make it for what could have been a career-defining final for him.
Having damaged his ankle in the semi-finals, Belhoul was in some pain and had to surrender the gold medal to Jordan’s Haider Al Rasheed by walkover.
“For me, his silver is equal to gold,” said UAE’s jiu-jitsu men’s team coach Ramon Lemos, adding: “He fought with an injury after a foot-lock in the semis. Sometimes this happens but he was a hero for us.”
Belhoul defeated Kyrgyzstan’s Murtazaliev Murtazali 2-0 but in that effort he has clearly aggravated the injury and medical staff do not want to risk it further.
“Had Belhoul lost that semis fight, he would have had to fight for the third place and he couldn’t have done that fight with that leg. It meant we wouldn’t have won a medal.
“He controlled that fight even with pain to put his country in the final. He told me ‘Ramon, ‘if I lost that fight I wouldn’t have won a medal for my country but now I know we have a silver at least. That was truly a special effort, simply exceptional,” said Lemos, whose ward Belhoul immediately after the medal ceremony vowed to comeback and clinch the gold in the next Asian Games.
“Silver is also good enough for now. I’m happy for every medal that I win for UAE. I will definitely return for the Asian Games again in three years’ time and inshallah maybe I will win gold,” said the 29-year-old adding, “I would say it was God’s decision that I couldn’t take part in the final. What can you do? I was ready but I can’t fight with one leg. The technical team and coach Lemos decided that I shouldn’t flight.”
Earlier, Mohammad Al Qubaisi defeated Erkhbayar Batkhuyag of Mongolia by advantage points 3-2 to take the first of the two bronze medals that was up for grabs in the jiu-jitsu men’s 77kg.
Saoud Al Hammadi also had a chance to claim bronze in the same category but he went down to Jordan’s Abdelkarin on referee’s decision.
UAE have now completed their challenge in Jiu-Jitsu with two gold, five silver and two bronze. Kazakhstan, with two gold and three bronze, finished second followed by Jordan on third with one gold, one silver and three bronze.