Road accident leaves triathlete in coma

Early morning training ride ends with serious head trauma for Australian, who was hoping to develop his sport in the Emirates.

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ABU DHABI // A triathlete and school swimming coach remained in a critical condition in hospital yesterday after a cycling accident in the capital. Mark Pringle, 50, an Australian triathlete, suffered serious head injuries while training with two other cyclists early on July 24. Since then, he has been in a medically induced coma; his family has travelled from Australia to be at his hospital bedside.

Authorities have not been able to confirm whether he was hit by a vehicle, but another member of the group he was riding with said his injuries appeared more serious than would normally be expected from an ordinary fall from a bicycle. Mr Pringle moved to the UAE last year to coach swimming at the Raha International School in Abu Dhabi. Since his arrival in the capital, he has become a prominent figure in the UAE triathlon scene, regularly coaching and training with Abu Dhabi and Dubai clubs.

Before that, he was the swimming director for the Australian triathlon team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. A teacher at Raha, Mr Pringle was planning to launch a junior triathlon club at the school in September, aiming to encourage more youngsters into the sport. Mr Pringle was riding at the back of the group of experienced cyclists who train for up to six hours under darkness to avoid the heat of the UAE sun, always ensuring they stick to the capital's better-lit and quieter roads.

Other riders were alerted by a passing motorist, who flagged them down after spotting Mr Pringle at the side of the road. "Mark is a very experienced triathlete; he knows how to stay safe on the road," said one rider, who did not want to be named. "It was dark, but Mark was riding on the hard shoulder and using bike lights. It happened so quickly. We don't know what happened. "It was very early in the morning, there weren't many cars on the road. It was a three-lane road with a hard shoulder, there's no reason it shouldn't have been safe."

The cyclist added: "Cars passed by, but only a few stopped to help. They don't seem to want to involve themselves, it's sad they don't feel they can help." In a recent interview with The National, Mr Pringle spoke of his desire to build awareness for the sport in the UAE. "Triathlon wasn't really on the agenda: they focus on swimming here. If I can push it from my end and the youngsters can push themselves people will take notice," he said at a launch for the Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon squad at the beginning of July.

"All these guys can run, so the next thing is the bike and then the swimming," he added. "I think everyone can relate to each of those, no matter who you are, you can relate to riding a bike, running and swimming in some sort of fashion. "My focus will be in multisport events, and especially getting the Emirati kids up to speed and on to the world stage in triathlon. We already have kids who are willing to give it a go and have shown ability, which is great."

Mr. Pringle is also responsible for setting up Tri Middle East, a triathlon group based in Abu Dhabi, where he provides group and individual coaching in swimming, cycling and running. Mr Pringle took part in his first triathlon in 1981 and competed professionally until 1993.