Despite being just 21 years old, it has been a long and tough road to the top for Jordan’s taekwondo star Juliana Al Sadeq.
The younger sister of world silver medallist, Yazan, Juliana is having one last push towards qualifying for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and keeping a fine tradition of Jordanian female fighters reaching every Games since 2004.
But it hasn’t been easy for the physical education student as the Asian qualifiers approach next month.
As a promising starlet, Juliana suffered a serious knee injury competing when she was aged only 10. It seemed that her promising sporting aspirations were over at such a young age but she made her way back four years later to become one of the Kingdom’s top fighters by her late teens.
“It has been a bumpy journey but I have had a lot of people supporting me along the way, whom I am extremely grateful to,” she said.
“I have always wanted to participate in an Olympic Games. It will not be easy to get there through the qualifications in The Philippines next month. But I practice every day and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Fulfilling her Olympic dream has meant she has had to postpone her studies to focus on being in the best physical and mental shape as possible.
As well as her brother providing inspiration, her coaching comes from close to home with father Foad overseeing her progress.
Juliana is no stranger to the international stage and tasting glory at the highest level. She has won gold medals over the past five years in the UK, Belgium, Indonesia and Iraq to name just a few. But she knows booking a place on the plane to Brazil in August would be a crowning glory.
Her early years were spent learning gymnastics which she says was key to gaining strength and flexibility to become a strong taekwondo fighter. It was her love of the sport that encouraged her to come back after four years out through the nasty injury that would have beaten many youngsters.
But looking ahead to the next month, she said she is prepared and focused.
“I don’t want to only participate as I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. I want to fight to win and qualify through to the Olympic Games for Jordan.
“I have to make a champion inside myself, follow the instructions of my coaches and keep training hard,” she said.
Juliana has become a great source of inspiration for the next generation of fighters who she says can continue Jordan’s great association with the Olympic Games for many years to come.
Away from sport she likes to eat the Yemeni rice dish, Mandi, while pointing out the Iranian fighter Mahdi as her global icon.
For someone with such a ferocious competitive streak, she also has a humble side and is always mindful of those who have stood beside her.
“I would like to thank all those people who support me: my family, the federation and my friends, I had a hard time during my injury but I promise them that I will make them proud of me.”
Should Juliana make it the Rio, she will be in safe hands with the Jordan chef de mission being Nadin Diwani, a taekwondo legend who had qualified for the past three Olympic Games in Athens, Beijing and London.