Mohammad Sami Al Bakhit’s name will be forever etched in the Jordan sporting history books.
On December 7, 2006 and at the age of 19, the taekwondo star secured Jordan’s first ever gold medal at an Asian Games when he clinched the 54kg title by beating Vasavat Somswang, of Thailand, in an exhilarating final in Doha, Qatar.
Jordan had a new sporting hero. It was an achievement that was celebrated across the Kingdom and there were hopes that he would go on to clinch a first medal at an Olympics.
But unfortunately for him, and for Jordan, his weight category is not a part of the Olympic programme.
Nevertheless, Mohammad is still fondly remembered and spoke to www.joc.jo about what he is up to now.
“I retired two years ago at the age of 26 but still stay involved by coaching the sport,” said Mohammad, who also works for Arab Bank.
His taekwondo journey started at the tender age of five when he watched a tournament with his elder brother Tariq at the Orthodox Club.
“I was hooked,” he remembers. “I registered with the Jabal Amman Club and fell in love with the sport. I obtained all the junior belts required and then made it into the national team.”
His talent was obvious and in 2002, aged 15, he clinched the World Junior Championship title in Greece. He had arrived on the international stage. His senior career included more medals on the Asian and World level.
“Without doubt the highlight was that win in Doha,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure because Jordan had not won an Asian Games gold before so to achieve that and become the first was special. I will never forget it.”
Taekwondo is without doubt Jordan’s leading individual sport with tens of thousands of people participating on a regular basis. At the top end it has sent more Jordanians to Olympic Games than any other sport and there are hopes that one or two could qualify to Rio de Janeiro next summer.
But there are concerns too that the successes aren’t coming like they used to with countries around the world investing heavily in the sport.
“Since it has become an Olympic sport there are more and more countries investing in taekwondo,” he said. “There is a worry that we have gone backwards so we must continue to invest in infrastructure and coaching to stay at the top.
“Under the presidency of HRH Prince Rashid Bin Al Hassan, the federation is working hard and there needs to be a lot more support. You only need to look at the last Olympics when three Jordanians qualified for the taekwondo events, which was fantastic. Taekwondo has given me so much and it is important that it continues to be a leading sport here.”
But his golden touch as a player is starting to rub off as a coach with Zaid Al Halawani, his young apprentice, winning gold in the World Juniors Championship 2014.
The two-time Black Iris Sportsman of the Year winner singles out Iranian star Hadi Sa'i as his role model during his playing days, and says his father was his staunchest support throughout.
Reflecting on his own beliefs as an athlete and how he continues to inspire the current generation, Mohammad said: “Youngsters should focus on training and put winning as their goal and nothing else. They must have the passion to raise the Jordanian flag wherever they may be competing."
Few can forget that memorable night in 2006, only time will tell whether more will come from a sport that has become synonymous with Jordan.
Name: Mohammd Sami Al Bakheet (Al Abbadi)
Marital Status: Single
Career: Arab Bank. Also a taekwondo coach
Music: Goerge Wassouf
Hobbies: Playing football and Playstation
- Gold medal in the World Youth Championship – Greece 2002
- Gold medal in the Asian Games – Qatar 2006
- Gold medal in the Pan Arab Games- Algeria 2004
- Bronze medal in the Asian Martial Arts Games – Bangkok 2010
- Order of King Hussein Bin Talal for Excellence
- Bronze medal in World Cup – Thailand 2005
- Gold medal in Al Fajer Championship – Iran 2004
- Black Iris Winner two times
- Second Best Arab Athlete after Naser Al Atteyeh in Maktoob website voting in 2007
- Coaching Zaid Al Halawani to gold at the World Juniors Championship 2014