Al Sultan has eye on the future

The Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon captain hopes that the forming of the team will inspire youngsters in the Emirates to take up the sport.

Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon look more international than Emirati, but captain Faris al Sultan hopes to sort that out in future.
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ABU DHABI // Members of Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon, unveiled yesterday, are hopeful that one day their creation will help inspire youngsters in the Emirates to take up the sport. The strength, endurance and determination of these athletes will be tested across swimming, cycling and running. Captained by the 2005 Ironman World Champion and Al Ain resident, Faris al Sultan, the team members - who will compete in a combined test of swimming, cycling and running - include established triathletes such as Swen Sundberg, Andi Bocherer, Andrea Brede and former German Half Ironman Champion, Ina Reinders.

While the founding squad - created by a sponsorship package with Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, whose sponsorship already covers rallying, powerboating and the Red Bull Air Race series - may look more international than Emirati, the team captain al Sultan, hopes creating an official team in the capital will help encourage youngsters into the sport. "It's my personal life dream to establish such a team here," he said.

There have been others, but we have a different approach; it's not just about performance - which is obviously important - but also lifestyle, and encouraging local people into the sport," he said. Al Sultan, who has lived and trained in Al Ain for the past 10 years, sees the formation of the team as a significant step towards developing the sport in the country and producing homegrown triathletes. "It doesn't have to be that everyone becomes a triathlete to do Ironman. It's one stage at a time. I would be happy if we inspired locals to buy a bike and started to ride a bit, or went for a run on the Corniche, or swim a little," he said.

"It's more about an athletic lifestyle than making everyone into world class triathletes, but everybody can achieve something for themselves. "Here you have all the kinds of terrain you could want and perfect weather conditions, and a very good road system, so the UAE is the place to be." Reinder, who is hoping to regain her German Half Ironman champion crown in Frankfurt on July 5, also hopes to encourage more women to take up the sport.

"I hope we can encourage local girls to try triathlon. Perhaps if they see that there are women who are doing triathlon in Team Abu Dhabi, they'll try it and see that it is not that hard," she said. "If you hear triathlon you always think of Ironman, but it does not have to be that. A woman who goes to the gym and runs, cycles and swims can start by doing shorter distances," Reinder explains. Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon will be competing in 11 major international Ironman and triathlon events across Germany, Canada and the US during the remainder of the season - with al Sultan challenging for the Ironman World Championship title in Hawaii this October.

Plans for the team include a proposal to host international triathlon events in Abu Dhabi and the creation of a junior development programme in collaboration with schools - both of which are in the initial planning stage. zgriffiths@thenational.ae