From child of Bosnian war to jiu jitsu world champion

From child of Bosnian war to jiu jitsu world champion

As the crowd cheered and clapped from the stands, Almir Kapic collapsed to the ground in the arena, unable to fight back tears.

The 38-year-old Bosnian had just come out on top to be crowned Ultra Heavyweight champion in the brown belt division at the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, held last month in Abu Dhabi.

Standing on the podium, Kapic was ecstatic as he proudly held up the Bosnia and Herzegovina flag.

“I couldn’t believe it … I started to cry from happiness,” Kapic told Al Jazeera of his win.

The gruelling training and years of perseverance and sacrifices had finally paid off.

“I achieved what I dreamed of in the world of jiu-jitsu – to become a champion and to tie the master belt.”

Kapic holds up the Bosnian flag at the awarding ceremony in Abu Dhabi [Almir Kapic/Al Jazeera]

Started from the bottom

For the martial artist, it’s been a long journey to the top of the world.

Hailing from the small town of Banovici, Kapic’s earliest years were marked with a struggle to survive as a bloody war ripped Bosnia apart in the early 1990s.

He was just 13 when his father was shot and killed by a Serbian sniper during the nearly four-year war.

Left with his mother, he recalls hav

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