New Ironman world champion Faris Al Sultan, who trains in the UAE, says Al Ain provides some of the best triathlon training in the world.
When he competes, Al Sultan wears a German vest, but the 27-year-old teacher has strong ties to the emirate his Iraqi father was based there for 30 years.
Al Sultan won the men's title in a time of 8:14:17 last weekend. The Ironman, which is considered the toughest endurance race in the world, includes a 3.9km ocean swim, a 180km road cycle followed by a marathon run.
His recent win at the World Championships in Hawaii has catapulted him to the pinnacle of his sport, and the $120,000 prize purse he bagged will allow him to become a full-time athlete.
The ambitious athlete, who completed the Ironman in the fourth fastest time in the race's history, spoke to Gulf News about the implications of his win.
He said: "I have reached the ultimate goal in triathlon so I'm among the big names in the sport. But I am not among the heroes like Mark Allen, Dave Scott, Peter Reid and Thomas Hellreiegal and that is my next goal. I will be a full time athlete."
Al Sultan is a well-known character in the UAE. The story of how he cycled from Al Ain to Dubai to compete in a triathlon, slept on the beach and went on to win the event is the stuff of local triathlon legend.
"That was a few years ago," said Al Sultan. "I simply didn't want to spend the money on a hotel, even though my father or his friends would have been happy to pay for it.
"I love my sport but I'm not obsessed by it. I approach the sport from the adventure side. I never planned to become a professional, just to reach my limits."
Next on the world champ's agenda is a few weeks of rest and celebration, before he heads for Al Ain in December for more training.
"Al Ain is just perfect," he said: "The climate during winter and early spring is ideal, there is not too much traffic and most of the roads are well paved.
"The area is rather flat which is good for base training but you also have the wonderful road up to Jebel Hafeet."