Shaikh Saqer Al Khalifa from Bahrain (top); Wajeeha Husseini from
Qatar and Omar Almarri from Saudi Arabia.
Arab heroes shine at Abu Dhabi Triathlon
Abu Dhabi, March 15, 2014
Ten spirited triathletes from around the Gulf conquered the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in impressive style today (March 15).
The 10 travelled from all over the GCC to represent their countries in the UAE’s largest mass participation endurance race as part of the Local Heroes Programme, said the organisers.
The programme has gone from strength to strength since its 2011 launch, helping to develop the sport of triathlon across the Gulf and driving participation for one of the region’s biggest annual events.
The number of entries from around the GCC region grew by 10 per cent since last year with the short and sprint distances being particularly popular amongst regional first-timers and amateur triathletes, they stated.
Leading the Local Heroes into the UAE were 30 racers from Bahrain, who flew in to take on the region’s largest triathlon.
Hoping to encourage like-minded athletes in the Kingdom is competitor Shaikh Saqer bin Salman Al Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Triathlon Association and a member of the country’s ruling family.
“I’ve finally made it to the finish line! This is by far one of the most glamorous courses I have ever raced regionally and internationally. I couldn’t help looking up on the bike and run leg to admire all of the iconic landmarks on the left and right,” said the ecstatic 34-year-old Bahraini.
Right behind Bahrain’s leading triathlete were Kuwaiti sisters Najla and Nuha Aljeraiwi, returning to race in Abu Dhabi for the third time.
“Racing shoulder-to-shoulder with my sister was great; the Brownlee brothers were going head to head as well and that was a great inspiration for us,” said 25-year-old Najla who took her younger sister, Nuha, under her wing and trained her for the race over the past year.
“I was so impressed with how much more women were competing at this event as compared to last year which felt empowering.”
The sisters are on a mission to increase the popularity of triathlon in their home nation and have brought 68 keen triathletes from Kuwait with them to Abu Dhabi, who are all excited to have completed the must-do race.
As part of the programme all 10 lucky ‘heroes’ received return flights to Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways for the race, two nights’ at the beachfront Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan hotel, access to expert advice from the race team’s experts and free entry into the triathlon. The programme has played a key role in encouraging more keen athletes to get a taste of the sport, with entries from the Gulf now making up over 50 per cent of total registrations.
Another Gulf country well represented at this year’s race is Saudi Arabia with 43 competitors jetting in to Abu Dhabi for the big event.
Experienced triathlete and father of twins, Mazen Akhdar, is relieved to have completed the race successfully and is looking forward to take home his hard-earned medal.
“This is one of the best races I have competed in on a global scale. What stands out the most about this race is the picturesque course and how well-organised the event is. This is a good race to get me ready for the Ironman 70.3 Florida that I’m competing in next month.”
A great advocate of the sport in Oman is Sulaiyam Alalawi who has eagerly returned to compete in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon every year since 2012.
Joining the keen triathlete were 12 other Omanis most of whom were first timers at the race. “This was one of the most challenging races for me but I am happy to have crossed the finish line injury-free. I fell in love with this race back in 2012 and it has become a staple event on my sporting calendar,” said 29-year-old year-old proud Omani.
More Arab heroes who have had an unforgettable weekend in the emirate are Qatar’s duo, Marouf Mahmoud and mother of two Wajeeha Al-Husseini who joined 88 other participants from Qatar to take on the reginal pinnacle of triathlon.
“This is such a fascinating race! My favourite part was at the start where I felt overwhelmed and excited going into the water with hundreds of athletes. Completing the race has given me such a huge sense of accomplishment. I was so elated!” said Wajeeha who is a role model to women and mothers keen to get into the sport, proving that anyone can get into triathlon.
A record-breaking 1,939 athletes from 68 countries participated in what was the largest Abu Dhabi International Triathlon to date.
Amateur athletes competed alongside a world-class field of elite triathletes on the spectacular course, which started with a swim in the crystal blue waters off Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, continued with the cycling stage across to Saadiyat and Yas islands, and concluded with a run past the iconic Marina Mall breakwater.
Star competitors included Olympic gold and bronze medallists Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, winners of the short course race, 2014 men’s long course champion Tyler Butterfield from Bermuda, Belgium’s Frederick Van Lierde, Australia’s Melissa Hauschildt, Spain’s Eneko Llanos and many more.-TradeArabia News Service