JU-JITSU star Jessa Khan has vowed to come back stronger and is fully committed to proving herself next year – when Cambodia will host the historic Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) for the first time – after missing out on qualifying for the 48kg Ju-Jitsu event in Vietnam.
After the disappointing news was announced – in a May 14 press release by the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC) – Jessa provided an insight to the unfortunate event which shocked the nation as she was widely expected to repeat her previous golden performance at the Hanoi games.
The 20-year-old Ju-Jitsu exponent said her preparations coming into the 31st SEA Games were good and she had treated the biennial multi-sports event like any other tournament. This competition was no different than the others that she had competed in the past, she said.
“I gave it all I had. I followed my diet to a tee, had multiple training sessions, did many rounds in the sauna and bath, did exercises in a sauna suit and tracksuit to try to sweat the extra weight off, but nothing came off. I got close and literally killed myself for it,” she wrote on her Instagram account.
“I don’t have the same body I did a couple years ago when I was making rooster [weight]. My body is going through a lot of changes. As I get older, it gets harder and harder for me. I felt I did everything right. I really did give it my all,” she added.
When asked whether the training and preparations were different this time around from previous competitions, Jessa said: “I felt preparations were the same. One noticeable difference this time around – compared to my previous preparations in the Kingdom – was that I certainly noticed that the sport of Ju-Jitsu has more schools in Cambodia and more sparring partners are available.”
During the official weigh-in for the 48kg class, Jessa was very close to making weight but was a mere 240g over the weight limit. Under the rules of the Ju-Jitsu International Federation and the SEA Games Sports Technical Handbook, she was not allowed to compete in the competition.
The Olympic committee lodged a formal appeal with the event’s organising committee immediately after the weigh-in, asking that she be allowed to compete in the higher weight class of 62kg, but to no avail.
The situation of being over the weight limit had come up before in past competitions, but this time around, it was a very bitter pill for her to swallow as she had tried to do everything possible.
The Ju-Jitsu star, who won gold at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and the 2019 SEA Games in Manila, said: “Yes, it happened once before. But this time around, I had a nutritionist, who has been with me for a year now. I was following the prescribed diet strictly, but the weight was not coming off at all.”
She wanted to thank all of her fans and apologised that she was unable to compete, saying she really wanted to make it up to everyone.
“I just want to say that I am sorry for the people that I disappointed, I know you were expecting more of me. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far. I really appreciate everyone’s help,” she said.
Jessa reassured fans that she will certainly be more closely engaged with her nutritionist in preparing for the next SEA Games, as she is fully committed to make herself available – even if she competes in a higher weight division at the Phnom Penh event.
“I will need more time to implement my routine or even consider competing in a higher weight division. I am going to enjoy the rest of my time here in Cambodia before I head back home. Thank you all so much. Next year I’ll come back stronger,” she said.
Before the unexpected news broke out, Jessa – who is considered one of the best athletes in the sport – was flag-bearer for the Cambodian team at the May 12 opening ceremony of the SEA Games.
She said it was a nice experience – and certainly an honour – for her to bear the Cambodian flag.
“It was a special moment as I had my dad and my grandma marching behind me in the opening ceremony. It was very special for me; I got to carry the flag for Cambodia. It was a great honor to do that, especially with my family by my side,” she wrote.
Jessa’s commitment to bringing more glory to team Cambodia was met with great enthusiasm and support from her fans. She announced on May 19 on her Instagram account that she will be joining the One Championship. Jessa spent time in Phnom Penh on a short break – before returning to the US to resume training for the 2022 World Championships, to be held in Abu Dhabi in October.