Abu Dhabi: India’s first elite Ironman athlete, 32-year-old Anu Vaidyanathan-Ahuja, is looking to be a role model to women across the Gulf as she readies to make her regional debut at next month’s $230,000 (Dh844,790) Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Anu is a national icon, having become the first Indian athlete to qualify for a 70.3 World Championship event and the first Asian to finish an Ultraman (10km swim, 420km bike, 84.4km run), when she placed 6th at Ultraman Canada 2009.
And the Bangalore-based star is encouraging other women to get active and motivated by sport. “Start gradually and enjoy the process. I see too many people try to cram everything in, in a huge rush and end up burning out. It is important to build a love for the sport into the process,” she said.
“I got started very, very gradually. I used to bike to school as a child and started running when I was 17. I used to run to stay fit, lose some weight and also to try and impress a boy. Then I started riding my bike to college and between classes and work, as it was the best mode of transport. Swimming was an afterthought and I slowly built things up and put them together — there was no miracle or overnight transformation, it was a very gradual process.”
Anu is one of 10 athletes invited to compete in the fourth Abu Dhabi event as part of organiser Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority’s (TCA Abu Dhabi) competition to find the most inspirational stories in the sport. The March 2 event received more than 100 entries from inspirational triathletes globally.
Abu Dhabi is expecting more than 2,000 athletes to compete this year, including many of the world’s elite, such as British Olympic gold medal-winning triathlete Alistair Brownlee.
Entry fees for the long and short distances are Dh695 and Dh475 respectively, while sprint course rates are Dh275 for individuals and Dh440 for a team. The fee for the team relay is Dh1,022. For more information log on to www.abudhabitriathlon.com