Despite heading towards a half century of medals, one of Jordan’s most decorated sportsmen says he still has long-term ambitions in his sport.
Bashar Al Najjar is has just finished another glorious year as Jordan’s team karate captain, and at the young age of 24 he is already considered a true local sporting legend.
His adventure began as a six year old and he hopes it will continue all the way to the biggest stage of them all, an Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
“I started all the way back in 1997,” Bashar told www.joc.jo. “Karate is like a family heritage for us as it was handed down to me by my father when my older brother Shadi was playing, so I joined his club.”
It didn’t take long for his natural talent to be recognised and by the age of 16 he was a regular in the national team. In his very first championship, he returned with silver and a bronze from Morocco, but that was just the beginning.
Medals have come consistently on an Arab, Asian and world level, but he is not one for reminiscing with a clear focus on the best to come.
“That was all in the past!” he said. “I want to be the world’s number one; it’s just a matter of time if I keep this determined. I have won world titles, and that is why I believe in myself and know I can do it.”
Karate is not currently on the Olympic programme, but there are moves afoot to include it on the Tokyo roster in four years’ time.
“It would be a dream come true for people like me and other great Jordanian fighters,” he said. We have won many medals on the world level so I jhave no doubt that we could be successful at the Olympics. If Karate is a part of Tokyo, I guarantee a medal for Jordan.”
Bashar sprang to prominence at the Asian Games in Guangzhou 2010 when, as an 18 year-old, he took silver.
“I was the first Jordanian to reach a karate final at the Asian Games,” he said. “I lost the gold but I won the confidence in myself. I will never forget that moment.”
But a low point followed four years later when he lost his first round match at the same event in Incheon. He says this helped him refocus and within weeks he was ranked seven in the world.
Bashar believes in a rigorous training regime but says he does break it occasionally to enjoy the traditional Jordanian dish of Mansaf.
He looks to brother Shadi as his local inspiration but says six-time European Karate Champion Luca Valdes of Spain is his sporting idol.
His international success has encouraged a new generation of fighters to turn to karate and Bashar believes the Kingdom will continue to produce some of the best in the world.
“We have Nabeel AL Shweiki who won bronze at World Championship last month, and AbdulRahman Masatfah who won silver at the Asian Games in Incheon 2014,” he said. “We have some great young fighters and a strong junior base. I’m not worry about the future of Karate here at all.”
Bashar predicts a busy 2016, and is preparing for the World Karate Championship in Austria and hope to take gold at the Asian Championships.
Away from sport, Bashar has excelled in education with a university degree which he believes sport helped him to achieve.
He is also quick to share his glory with those behind him, led by HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein, the President of the JOC, and of course his coaches, family and friends.