After more than 20 years of top class karate, Mohammed Al Rifi has called time on a career that saw him become established as one of the best in Asia.
At 25, many athletes believe they are yet to reach their prime, but Mohammad has decided to step aside and allow the next generation to fill his shoes as the sport prepares for its Olympic return in 2020.
“It has been an adventure, a wonderful journey which has brought so much to my life,” he said. “But I have to plan long term now and that is why I will concentrate more time on my work and professional career.”
However, the multiple national champion won’t be disappearing and has vowed to offer whatever support he can to ensure Jordan is well represented in Tokyo in three years’ time.
“Now that karate has been added to the Olympic Games there will be a lot more global attention on the sport which will impact it positively. But it does mean more countries will be investing in karate so Jordan will need to work harder to be a strong contender.
“The athletes trying to qualify will have to work hard and focus at training. But having said that they should be confident to achieve so that their Olympic dream can come true.”
Mohammad first experienced karate as a three-year-old and by the age of six he was a black belt 1st dan, thanks largely to the encouragement and support from his father.
A place in the national team was secured in 2008 which led to a global adventure that saw him capture a number of intercontinental medals.
“For me, karate is different from all other sports. It gives you responsibility and a goal that you have to reach, and it pushes you to do whatever it takes to reach your goal,” he said.
Despite being such a serious sport, Mohammad recalls a lighter incident when he was fighting in the final of the Asian Championships against a Japanese athlete when both of their contact lenses fell out.
“The two of us were on our hands and knees mid fight trying to find them!” he recalled.
Of course, at 25, there is always a chance of a u-turn in any athlete’s decision, and Jordan will be hoping that Mohammad will have a change of heart and lead our charge towards the Olympics.
· Two gold medals in the open weight and team fight, and a bronze in individual fight U68kg, at Kobe Osaka, Greece 2009
· Silver in U75kg, at Asian U21 Championships in Hong Kong
· Silver in U75kg, at the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan 2012
· Silver in teams in U68kg at the West Asian Karate Games in Saudi Arabia 2012
· Gold in open weight and silver in teams at the International Champions Championship in Saudi Arabia 2013