JEDDAH: In an unexpected turn of events, a Saudi father living in the US has won gold with his ailing son serving as his biggest fan and top coach.
Mohammed Jwaied M. Al-Mukhalis Al-Yami unwittingly found himself in the middle of his very own inspirational story, one that was heavily circulated on social media and captured the attention of Saudis everywhere.
Al-Mukhalis, a former employee at Aramco, moved to Houston, Texas, with his youngest son, Fahad, who suffers from a congenital heart and lung deformity. After years of treatment at Saudi hospitals, Fahad, the youngest of his three sons, was transferred to one of the top hospitals in Houston to undergo a lifesaving lung transplant procedure, with help from the Saudi government.
“I needed a distraction and I found it through training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which keeps me busy and gets my mind off of negative thoughts,” Al-Mukhalis told Arab News.
“My son is my biggest fan and my coach, too. He is always by my side while I train and it is a blessing, especially since it is only us here.”
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art and combat sport based on ground fighting and submission holds. It is a relatively tactful sport that requires focus and maneuvers to beat one’s opponent, something that Al-Mukhalis found easy. His coaches helped him discover a talent he never knew he had as Al-Mukhalis is inspired by Fahad cheering him on every step of the way.
With his wife and two older sons back in the Kingdom, Al-Mukhalis carried his son’s oxygen cylinder on his shoulder and accompanied him to the hospital every day as he went through treatment ahead of the transplant surgery. Al-Mukhalis spent his extra time training on the jiu-jitsu mat.
“It helped me get rid of my feelings of sadness and sorrow,” he said.
Al-Mukhalis started to gain confidence by winning local competitions until a breakout performance at this week’s World IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championship 2021 at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.
“I won first place at the GI-adult 155-pound category,” he said. “With my son looking on and his struggle in mind, he was my inspiration to winning the championship in a thrilling climax.”
Al-Mukhalis went from a Saudi in a foreign country to a world champion. He made the successful transformation with hard work and effort — a victory he could not attain without Fahad by his side.
“My son and I made a vow to never give up when I fight and he will keep fighting his illness, too,” Al-Mukhalis said.