Jakarta: Wadima Al Yafei created history in 2016 when she became the first Emirati woman to win a medal in an international competition — a bronze in jiu-jitsu at the Asian Beach Games in Vietnam.
Her success was enough to put her parents’ anxiety to rest as they were sceptical about their ward’s choice of sport — deemed unsuited for women in a conservative society. “It was difficult to convince my family, especially my father to let me go and participate abroad,” Wadima had told Gulf News after that groundbreaking achievement.
Having said that, nothing succeeds like success, as they say. With family now firmly backing her to achieve her dreams, Wadima flew down to the Indonesian capital to follow her dream on Sunday, where the sport is making a bit of a history with its debut.
Wadima is well aware that 18th Asian Games is another platform that can take her places and more importantly set another benchmark for women like her to follow. “I would say it is an honour for me to be in the UAE squad. How many women get an opportunity to represent their country? So, it is special for me and I want to make it count with a medal,” said the 18-year-old Business Administration University Student from Al Ain.
Wadima will be leading UAE’s Challenge in the 49kg along with three other Emirati women for company — all from Al Ain Club — Mahra Al Hanaei, Bashayer Al Matrooshi and Hessa Al Shamsi.
“Bashayer is my best friend and we both are competing in the same category. We all are egging on each other and trying to keep ourselves upbeat for the challenge,” revealed Wadima, who was in a month-long camp in Abu Dhabi in the build-up to the mega event.
“The camp started from July 6 and was on till August 16. We have done our best to be in the best of shapes and are confident and ready for the competition,” asserted Wadima, who felt that the challenge in the Asian Games will be tougher than what she had experienced in Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where she missed out on a podium finish.
“The preparation was similar to Ashgabat, I would say. I missed out on a medal there but I have become more stronger than then. Asian Games will be a competition harder than ever but I’m very much looking forward to do well. I want to prove a point and want to be on that podium. I will do my best,” said Wadima, who was also awarded the Emirati Sportswoman of the Year in the juvenile category in Dubai last December.
Having been through the preparations systematically, it’s now about getting the act together and Wadima was of the view that it was important to stay calm. “Getting away from all the noises is important. I listen to my favourite music to switch off. Praying and being close to God is very important.”