Before the start of the Dubai Run on Friday, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, made sure to greet one participant in particular – 16-year old Rio Watson.
Rio is part of Team Angel Wolf, a racing group led by his father Nick Watson and includes his mother Delphine and 13-year-old sister Tia. Though Rio was diagnosed with a rare chromosome disorder that affects his speech and motor skills, his father has involved him in triathlons, races and swimming competitions.
“It’s been five years that we have been racing together, and Rio has covered about 6,000 kilometres of biking, swimming and running,” said Nick, a fitness expert and former Royal Marine.
It started in 2014, when the father and son participated in the Dubai International Triathlon.
Nick pulled Rio along in a kayak, cycled the 90km route with him riding in the carrier, and pushed him towards the finish line.
The Dubai Run marks Rio’s 200th race.
“It is a massive milestone,” said Nick. “We wanted to do something special [for it]… Once they announced Dubai Run, we thought ‘This is perfect’”.
When Sheikh Hamdan walked over to greet them, it wasn’t something unusual for the father-son duo. Team Angel Wolf first connected with the Crown Prince three years ago, when Tia participated in the X3 Junior Triathlon at Kite Beach. After Nick told him about their participation, Sheikh Hamdan shared a video of the sister and brother to his Instagram.
“We got 1.8 million views on his video,” said Nick. Now, “every race that he and Rio are in, [Sheikh Hamdan] will always come over and say ‘hello'. When I told Sheikh Hamdan that it was Rio’s 200th race, and he said ‘mashallah’. He was very happy.”
With a new achievement under their belt, Team Angel Wolf is staying active. “We’ve got another race tomorrow morning,” said Nick. He will be swimming a mile while pulling Rio in a kayak for the Daman DXB Swimfest. “We do one or two races every weekend for the season, so we’ll end up 50 to 60 races every season. Our weekends are always busy.”