Hana Al Nabulsi
Hana Al Nabulsi Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Hana Al Nabulsi is driven by a big dream – to bring glory to the UAE on the podium at the Paris Olympics 2024. And her sport? The daunting triathlon.

For Emirati Women’s Day, we reached out to Al Nabulsi to learn more about the 27-year-old athlete.

Why the triathlon?

“Initially, I didn’t know what triathlon was; and the first time I heard about a triathlon, the only one I knew about was ironman, it started off as a bet with my cousin whether or not I could do it. And after completing my first 70.3 I became obsessed - I think it was the adrenaline that I felt during the race.”

At the Olympics, both the men's and women's triathlons will take place over the Olympic distance, which includes a 1.5km swim, a 40km cycle and a 10km run. In total, 110 athletes will compete in the Paris 2024 triathlon competition

An Ironman race is different. The Ironman 70.3 is a 1.9 km swim, a 90 km bike ride, and a 21.1 km run. The ’70.3’ stands for the distance covered in miles, which is equal to 113 km.

Al Nabulsi has competed in both formats. Having completed two 70.3 Ironman races, she was the youngest Emirati athlete to complete Mexico’s 113km Ironman triathlon in 2021. Al Nabulsi completed that in 7 hours and 9 minutes. At the Dubai Women’s Triathlon 2022, Al Nabulsi won first place in the Olympic distance race in the women’s category, after finishing the race in a time of 2:46:24 hours.

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The Olympics 2024 dream – what was the trigger for that goal?

“I’ve been quite athletic since I was a kid, and always dreamed of going into the Olympics for track- but that was all it was when I was a kid. The focus wasn’t a sports career – it was my school that was the focus so it just stayed as a dream.

“But as time went on and I got into the triathlon world, I had a whole epiphany and didn’t want to dream for things anymore, but rather fight the fight to turn that into a goal. I saw myself do things that 99% of the population would think is impossible, and so my reason for the Olympics grew day by day.”

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How has the UAE supported your dream?

Al Nabulsi’s efforts and training towards her Olympic dream was documented in a short film released in 2023, titled ‘The Iron Woman of Dubai.’ Her dream is to represent the country next year.

“From the beginning they [UAE] have got my back. We’ve got our strategy in place, so it’s up to me to put in the work, and stay in the fight.”

As a woman, and particularly as an Emirati woman, how has the journey been for you in the sport, and were there significant challenges?

“I think in general, women's sport has a lot of challenges, maybe more so in the Arab world. Having to be taken seriously, maybe, is one of the biggest challenges. So it’s a daily effort to make sure I keep my credibility, and prove myself every step of the way.”

“Bodies operate differently every day, some races will go so well while others don’t. And I think on those ‘bad’ body days the effect hits a lot more than it would typically be so for men. We operate in a man’s world, so we also are expected to act as so; so yeah I’d say there are a lot of challenges but nothing we can’t or won’t do. Myself and other Emirati athletes are paving a new path for the next generation, it’s a fight but what isn’t?”

What does your training schedule look like? Could you describe your regular day for us during the training period?

Hana Al Nabulsi
Hana Al Nabulsi Image Credit: Supplied

“It really varies, but most of the time it would consist of four runs, five swims, two strength sessions, two mobility sessions, [and] five bike sessions.”

Is there a specific diet you follow ahead of major events?

“Yes, so I’ve got my nutritionist Natasha Nunes, who’s been my nutritionist from day 1. We have worked together to find the best nutrition base for my body. I have a very sensitive stomach and am a pescatarian.”

“My diet throughout has A LOT of carbs, specifically potatoes. I wouldn’t say I eat more or any different before any race. But if I know where I’m racing is hotter than my training grounds, then we make sure to have more electrolytes + sodium the week prior.”

Words of advice for Emirati youngsters, especially girls, looking to enter the sports arena

“Silence the noise, and lead with belief. Everything can be done if you want it bad enough.”