'Local Heroes' prepare for Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
- United Arab Emirates: Sunday, February 03 - 2013 at 11:14
- PRESS RELEASE
The search for the next Middle Eastern triathlon star has reached its final stages with ten 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 2nd.
The amateurs - 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 all-star 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," he says.
"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," he adds.
Meanwhile, Jordanian Firas Al Hmood is looking forward to mixing it up in 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. 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!" he says.
Twenty-eight year old Omani Sulaiyam Al-Alawi began competing in triathlon with his brother Badr in 2005 and has since competed around the world, including the 2012 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
"I wanted to become a Local Hero because I love a challenge. The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is known to be one of the region's most prestigious triathlons and attracts some of the world's top elites, many of whom are people I look up to," says Al-Alawi.
"I competed in Abu Dhabi in 2012. The race was so well organised and it was great fun to meet other like-minded athletes. I heard about the Local Heroes competition from a friend of mine last year so this year I was eagerly waiting for the competition to launch again so I could put my name forward and I'm so glad I got a spot," he adds.
Saudi Nasser Saad Mutarrid is another who has overcome astonishing adversity to join the Local Heroes line-up. "A few years ago I had a terrible car accident and I couldn't train for a long while. It inspired me to create a documentary about my life. I started filming my recovery, how I overcame my injuries and how I went back to training months later."
"Now competing in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon feels like the ultimate reward for that perseverance. I would like to compete against some of the world's top elites. I am very excited to have been chosen to be a Local Hero and it gives me a great sense of pride to be able to represent Saudi Arabia at one of the world's biggest triathlons," he says.
Al Khalifa, Al Hmood, Al-Alawi and Mutarrid are just four of the ten finalists representing their countries as Local Heroes in 2013. All have the option of competing in the 223km 'Long course' (3km swim, a 200km cycle and 20km run), the half-length 'Short' course (1.5km swim, a 100km cycle and a 10 km run) and the 'Sprint course' (750m swim, a 50km bike and 5km run). Both the 'short' and the 'sprint' can be run as a team relay.
Local Heroes will receive return flights to, and accommodation in, Abu Dhabi plus free registration for the March 2nd event. 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.
Since its inception last year, the Local Heroes programme has gone from strength to strength, helping to develop the sport across the Middle East. In 2012, GCC sign-up swelled to 979 athletes, an increase of 27% over 2011, with the biggest growth coming from the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar.
"The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon has definitely helped spur regional grass-roots uptake of the sport and continues to lay strong foundations for its future. By providing a platform for others to inspire, and educate about adopting healthy lifestyle choices, we hope to see more people becoming involved with the event and the sport going forward," said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, TCA Abu Dhabi.
Organisers have frozen athlete registration fees for the fourth year in a row.
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