UAE triathlete Faris Al Zaabi 'can't wait to welcome the world' to Abu Dhabi in 2022

The first full-time Emirati triathlete tells Amith Passela he has his sights firmly on putting on a show for his fans when the capital hosts ITU World Triathlon Grand Final

Faris Al Zaabi in action at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne in August. Courtesy UAE Triathlon Association
Faris Al Zaabi in action at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne in August. Courtesy UAE Triathlon Association

UAE triathlete Faris Al Zaabi has his sights firmly set on the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Abu Dhabi in 2022.

Last month, Al Zaabi, 26, became the first Emirati to compete in an ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Now he has a taste for life on the professional circuit, Al Zaabi says he is hungry for more and is determined to "put up a good show" when the the capital hosts the Grand Final in two years' time.

“I can’t wait to welcome the world to the UAE when Abu Dhabi hosts the 2022 Grand Final,” Al Zaabi told The National from his training base in Spain.

“Competing in the Grand Final in Lausanne last week was a new experience. An experience I believe will help me prepare, and hopefully put up a good show, in the Grand Final in my home city in two years.”

Al Zaabi finished 24th from a field of 83 in the 25-29 age group race at the Grand Final in Lausanne, a category won by Britain's James Hodgson.

“My goal when I first started training professionally was to experience a Grand Final,” Al Zaabi said.

“I’m glad to accomplish that. Having said that, every race is a learning opportunity and the Grand Final was a valuable one. It was a very testing course, particularly on the bike and run segments.

“It’s a good result too, given it’s my first year as a full-time triathlete and an indication that I have a big margin of improvement. I still have many years ahead of me and every year is an opportunity to improve."

Al Zaabi said he was proud to represent his country in Lausanne, describing the atmosphere as “terrific” with fans from all over the world lining the route cheering on the athletes.

“I was proud to be the only Emirati athlete competing in the event and I hope to be able to pave the way for more Emiratis to join me,” he said.

“I was representing my country and I am proud to represent the UAE at the international level.”

Al Zaabi has the backing of the UAE Triathlon Association, and said it was an "honour" to have an executive board member of the UAE association and Asian Women’s Triathlon Committee, Asma Al Janahi, present in Lausanne. “This kind of support really encourages me,” he said.

Al Zaabi is preparing for the upcoming UAE season from his Spanish base as he aims to build up his strengths in triathlon's three disciplines: swimming, cycling and running.

“I look forward to coming back to the UAE at the end of October to prepare my pre-season and take part in the various multisport races," he said.

“I want to improve my fitness levels so will be looking for every opportunity in the UAE to be able to do this.

“We work 355 days a year,” he added. “I look forward to training with my team in Abu Dhabi's state-of-the-art facilities like New York University Abu Dhabi, Al Hudayriat Island and the Yas Marina Circuit.

“There are numerous community races organised by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council that I'd like to take part in as well as the signature events like Tri Yas, Du Yas, and the ITU World Triathlon Series in Abu Dhabi on March 6-7.”

Al Zaabi says his experience in Spain has been very enriching and humbling with a particular highlight being able to represent the UAE at the ITU Multisport World Championships in Pontevedra, northwest Spain.

“I speak Spanish, French, and Italian which also makes it easier,” he said. “One of the life lessons I have learnt is that hard work and sacrifice are key ingredients to becoming a professional athlete.

“I was proud to raise the UAE flag for the first time at an ITU Multisport World Championship.”

Published: September 9, 2019 10:26 AM


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