13-year-old boy fends off older rivals to win junior triathlon

Italian boy finished first in a field of more than 250 youngsters but the event on Abu Dhabi Corniche was more about having fun and enjoying exercise.
Children in the under 13 category race to the finish line at the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Children in the under 13 category race to the finish line at the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Claudio Cellie, a 13-year-old schoolboy, won the Abu Dhabi Junior Triathlon on Friday in the impressive time of 35 minutes and 44 seconds.

Claudio, who is Italian and a pupil at the Star International School, saw off the challenge of more than 250 youngsters who turned out for the event at the capital’s Corniche.

Two separate races were held for different age categories – a shorter swim and running course, or “aquathon,” for the under 13s, and a triathlon for the 13 to 16-year-olds.

The junior event set the scene for Saturday’s International Triathlon where some of the world’s top professional athletes will be competing.

“What an amazing experience,” said Claudio, who beat many older athlets in the 13 to 16-year-old male category, completing a 300m swim, 9km bike ride and a 2.5km run.

“I had so much fun and it feels really good to be racing on the same track as Olympic champions and Ironman winners. I would like to dedicate my win to my coach, Trace Rogers, who constantly pushes me to do my best.”

For the girls, Madison Lowndes ended the race on a winning note, securing first place in the 13-to-16 female category in a time of 38m 44s.

The under-13 race was won by 12-year-old Rayhaan Guerni, from Sharjah English School.

He said: “It was really good. The swim was pretty hard but the run was easier for me.

“I actually don’t train at all for running; I do a bit of training for swimming. I’ve done a proper triathlon but this was much better.”

“I wasn’t expecting to do that well at all, I am very happy and, next year, I’ll be able to do the triathlon,” said 12-year-old Jasmin Gray, from The British School Al Khubairat, in Abu Dhabi.

Jasmin was third overall in the under-13 category and the first girl to cross the finish line.

“I did some training, I train with H2O swim club almost every day. You’ve just got to have fun with it – you shouldn’t do it if you don’t find it fun. It is a tough thing putting all the sports together but it’s a great experience. I hope I can do more events like this in the future.”

The event was organised and supported by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

“At the junior triathlon we had more than double the attendance of last year,” said Mohamed Al Zaabi, from the event bureau at ADTCA.

“We are aiming for double again next year, with more than 500. This is a great model, which started in 2010. We want the junior triathlon to always complement the International Triathlon and, hopefully, some of the kids that we see here today will one day be competing in the full international triathlon.

“This is supported by many government entities, such as the police and municipality. We want to deliver a world-class event, which is in line with Abu Dhabi’s standards.

“This is the most important part of the weekend,” said Omar Nour, a professional Egyptian triathlete who will be competing in Saturday’s event.

“When you see 250 kids ready to be active on a Friday morning, it is perfect. This is what it is all about.

“I have never seen a junior triathlon with this many people. It is great to see the next generation of triathletes in action in Abu Dhabi.”

Proud parents and coaches lined the track on the Corniche, spurring the youngsters on.

“We have had the best time – there were 25 of us this morning and they have all run, swum and biked out of their skin,” said Vanda Griffin, a coach from Starfish Swimming in Dubai.

“They have all put their training into practice, with some brilliant results. I am extremely proud. I am a mum and a coach, so it is amazing to see.

“We still have a few events this season and I would like to see them all involved in those as well. It isn’t about the winning, it is about taking part and it is about changing kids’ lives.”

ksinclair@thenational.ae

Published: March 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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