Abu Dhabi: The search for the next Middle Eastern triathlon star has reached its final stages, with 10 amateurs from five countries selected to represent their nations in the region’s biggest and most prestigious triathlon event, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 2.
The ‘Local Heroes’ initiative, created by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), organiser of the $230,000 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, was undertaken in partnership with regional triathlon clubs and national newspapers, with the aim of finding a team of eager amateurs to develop the sport in their respective markets.
The amateurs, who come from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Jordan, will be special guests at the event and many have beaten the odds to make it into the team.
Five years ago, 33-year-old Shaikh Saqer Bin Salman Al Khalifa, a member of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s ruling family and chairman of Bahrain Road Runners, was diagnosed with diabetes and turned to triathlon to maintain his fitness and control his blood sugar levels.
“When I was diagnosed I didn’t know what to do, but I was determined not to let it overcome me,” says Shaikh Saqer. “I wanted to turn diabetes into a catalyst for fun and this is what triathlon has done for me. I found that swimming, running, biking and resistance exercise was a perfect control to my blood sugar. I love triathlon training, which has helped me control my diabetes.
“I believe that I can be a role model for both younger and older generations, and I hope that my participation in Abu Dhabi can inspire more people to register to take part. If I can do it, then anyone can.”
Meanwhile, Jordanian Firas Al Hmood is looking forward to being part of arguably the Middle East’s most competitive triathlon field.
“It will be such a privilege to gain some experience racing on the same course as pro-athletes like Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee,” he said. “Triathlon is simply a passion for me and I will be really proud to have the chance to participate in such a race with so many competitors. I would do anything to take part in this race.”
This year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is the event’s fourth edition and attracts strong local and international participants, with a record field of 2,200 athletes expected on the start line.
The event features long, short and sprint distances, involving gruelling swims, bike rides and runs.
Organisers have frozen athlete registration fees for the fourth year in a row. Athletes interested in entering should visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com and, after clicking on the ENTER NOW link, simply follow the instructions. Entry fees for the long and short distances are $190 (Dh695) and $130 (Dh475) respectively, while sprint course rates are $75 (Dh275) for individuals and $120 (Dh440) for a team. The fee for the team relay is $280 (Dh1,022).