An Aberdeen-based Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach has overcome back and nerve injuries – which included being immobilised in bed for two months – to claim gold in an international event in Ireland.
Arek Zienkiewicz, coach of Immortals Gold Crew in Aberdeen, claimed gold in the black belt under 73.5kg class at the IBJJF NoGi championship in Dublin at the weekend.
It is a remarkable achievement for the 42 year-old after being diagnosed with lateral recess in 2021.
He said: “I was lying in bed for almost two months in pain and I could not move.
“I managed to get back on my feet and then I had a trapped nerve in my shoulder last year.
“It has taken me eight months to be able to get back to training.
“Preparing for any competition is really tough – but for me it was almost impossible.
“But over the years in mixed martial arts I have found a way to prepare myself without hard training.”
Zienkiewicz’s return to the podium in Dublin was all the sweeter given the challenges he has faced in the last two years.
He added: “I am feeling so proud I stepped on the tatami (mat) because it was not easy task due to the injuries I’ve had.
“I have to fight first with my body and then with my opponent, so facing two opponents at the same time has been hard.
“I am not free from pain and I don’t know if I will be ever to be honest.
“But I am so happy I did it and that I overcame the worst enemy in my head – which is myself.”
Double medal joy for Zienkiewicz family
Zienkiewicz’s medal capped a family affair as his son Nicolas took bronze in the under 60.5kg green belt competition at the European Jiu Jitsu Championship kids’ event, which took place at the same venue at the weekend.
Proud dad Arek said: “I am so happy for my son Nico, because he is only 13 years old and enjoying competition. Maybe he is the future!
“He had fights against really tough opponents from Sao Paulo and Sweden.”
Zienkiewicz hopes his comeback story can serve as an inspiration.
He said: “I wish to pass the message to people who fight their own fights in their private life or sports that they do not have to stop.
“Never give up, no matter what you do – there is always a way to get out of the situation.”