ABU DHABI // Mark Pringle's life was cut short in an unsolved hit-and-run accident one year ago today. The pain for those he left behind remains deep. The Australian triathlete has many who still mourn him, including his wife, Jennifer, who was by his bedside for the 36 days he fought for his life in Al Mafraq Hospital's intensive care unit.
"I want justice for my husband," said Mrs Pringle. "People know what happened, someone must have been on the road at that time." The former Ironman was cycling on Khaleej al Arabi Street on July 24, training the British triathlete Julie Hall. With them was their fellow triathlete Clint Theil. Mr Pringle, who was just 49, dropped back, leaving the two cycling ahead. The next time they would see him, he was lying by his bike in a pool of blood. The pair had been alerted by a driver who claimed to have spotted Mr Pringle on the roadside.
Doctors gave him 24 to 48 hours to live when he arrived at Mafraq, but his fighting spirit and enthusiasm for life, says his wife, helped him survive as long as he did. "He had a unique quality, it was infectious. He had a gift to inspire others, making the impossible seem possible. Even in that hospital bed he was fighting. I'd massage his hands and feet and he tried to move them, even while in a coma," she said.
He was declared brain dead on August 28. His heart stopped beating on August 30. Mrs Pringle, a teacher at Al Raha International School, cried for the first six months following his death, unable to piece together the mystery of what happened that morning. March 21 would have been their second wedding anniversary. "I'm tormented because I don't know what happened to him," she said. "Below the neck he didn't have a scratch on him. It was just one severe blow to the back of the skull. The person who did this to him is unpunished."
Ms Hall said Mr Pringle, who won 33 races during his decade-long career, including the Australian Ironman title, was an inspiration. He was the swimming director for the Australian triathlon team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. He took part in his first triathlon in 1981 and competed professionally until 1993. In Abu Dhabi, he was setting up his company, Triathlon Middle East, as well as training children at Al Raha International School's swimming academy.
He was preparing Ms Hall for some big races including Ironman UK, a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run. The event, just one week after the accident, was marred by the tragedy. "That race was a wash-out as Ironman is more mental than anything and I was not mentally there," said Ms Hall. "I finished amazingly enough but was almost last. After that I sort of lost my spark but pulled myself together to fulfil what he was excited about me doing. I made it to both the World Championships and the Ironman."
Each time she gets on a bike, she feels fear and sadness, even a year on. "I don't want to let fear beat me as I love cycling, though of course I am very, very cautious. It's not just roads in UAE, it's roads anywhere. Iguess it brought home the reality that anything can happen to anyone at any time. I lost a friend and mentor that day and a little part of myself." Mr Pringle is also mourned by those at Al Raha International School.
"We all continue to miss him dearly," said Kirsten Baillie, a PE teacher at the school. "He was an inspiration to everyone that had the pleasure of knowing him and he raised the standard of swimming and sport at the school. Mark was always happy, enthusiastic and motivated, the kind of person that would do anything for anyone." The school named its pool Pringle Pool, with a plaque in his honour.
David Jenns, the managing director of Libra Sports, where Mr. Pringle worked as a swimming coach, said: "Mark was extremely talented and had a tremendous rapport with the children. It's an absolute tragedy that his time was cut short." Mrs Pringle hopes that one day justice may be done. "It was an accident but the person who did this has run away," she said. "The grief is sickening and it doesn't go away. To me he was not just an athlete, he was a husband, a father, a son, a brother."