The JOC meets a European champion who has literally changed the face of her sport.
When you first meet Jumana Jaabo the last thing you would expect her to be is a European gold medallist in a martial art.
The beaming smile and quirky nature warms you immediately to the 26 year old who admits to being a fan of heavy metal and describes her professional career as a 3D artist “like the Disney guys”.
But when you talk about her sporting success, this is when you meet the serious side.
For Jumana is a two-time reigning European champion in jodo, a sport that is growing in Jordan alongside the similar martial art of iaido, which she is also making an impact in.
She admits that winning European gold two years ago for the first time came as a huge surprise to her as she was still a relative newcomer to the sport, but when you hear how she prepares for these tournaments you realise the success has come through incredible dedication and hard work.
“Training can take up to six hours every day in the run up to a tournament for six to eight weeks,” said Jumana, who trains under the tutorage of the popular Ali Malhas. “Everything has to go: Music, friends, television, You Tube, films. I have to completely focus on my training. I have to watch everything that I eat and concentrate on what my goals are and how I will achieve them.”
One of those ‘normal’ training days will start with a 5am wake up followed by an hour’s workout at home. She still works during this period so she walks instead of drives to the office which can take up to two hours of exercise. Two hours of specialist training follows work and another hour of exercise when she reaches home at around 9am. It is gruelling stuff.
“My family thought I was crazy to start but now they have come to watch me compete, they can see why I am in love with this sport,” she said. “It has helped me to mature as a person. There is no comparison to how I was as a person in 2012 when I started. I am totally different.”
Jumana first watched the European Championships in France in 2013 and admits to being apprehensive after seeing how competitive it was. Immediately she set her sights on the 2014 event for her first competition at this level.
But there was one last hurdle which has seen Jordan, and in particular HRH Prince Ali Al Hussein in football, lead the way to change.
“I noticed that no-one was wearing the hijab which I thought may be a problem so I was concerned,” she said. “But the European Federation is very tolerant and has not made it an issue at all, so I was the first girl to wear a hijab a year later when I won.
“The Europeans are friendly but very competitive so it was a great feeling to win my first time in Italy and then to do it again a year later when I retained the title on my birthday in Sweden!”
She is now focused on preparing for a hat-trick later this year but admits that her training is ‘down’ to two hours a day in between competition.
Jumana’s motivation is, not surprisingly, very simple when you consider how modest and honest a person she is.
“I just don’t want to let my coach and the people who believe in me down,” she said. “I want to repay him (Ali Malhas) for placing his trust in me and I want to make my family and Jordan proud.”
No matter where her sporting career may take her, she has certainly not let anyone down and is a role model we can all be proud of.
NOTE: For more information on the how to compete locally in the sports of jodo and iaido, visit their Facebook page on http://bit.ly/243bq6c