ABU DHABI // Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon captain, Faris al Sultan, is eyeing today's Ironman Germany - the sport's European Championship - as the springboard to kick-start his globe-trotting, five-month competitive season and hopes to peak in time for November's Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
Only weeks after signing a new sponsorship deal with the emirate's Tourism Authority, the Al Ain resident will pull on the Abu Dhabi jersey and compete against Australia's defending champion, Chris McCormack, at the tough German event, which involves a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run - a full marathon. And while the triathlon veteran admits his days of getting nervous before events are behind him, his new ambassadorial role for the UAE capital is clearly weighing on his mind.
"ADTA are the main sponsors of the team and they support all the financial aspects, but I'm not just taking the money and saying things about Abu Dhabi without believing them. I'm not a mercenary, I live in the emirates and there is nothing artificial about this partnership," he said. "I'm very motivated for what is the first major event of the new sponsorship, but there is no extra burden, I expect the most from myself. I've been an unofficial ambassador for Abu Dhabi in the world of triathlon for 10 years. Now we've simply made things official. It adds pressure but only because it makes you intent on doing your best to advertise Abu Dhabi."
As well as McCormack, al Sultan identified Spain's Eneko Llanos Burguera, second in Hawaii last year, and Timo Bracht, the German who was third last year, as his main Frankfurt rivals. However, al Sultan, 31, played down expectations of a victory today. "The last two months have gone well but I've had a few problems," said al Sultan. "I did the first part of my training in the Emirates and the development didn't go as well as I wanted, I found it tough to get into decent shape. I don't know if I'm 100 per cent but I'll definitely be able to do a good race."
Al Sultan has fond memories of the Pacific Island world championships, having secured three consecutive podiums between 2004 and 2006, including a career highlight win in the 2005 competition. "Most of my season is geared towards putting in a good performance in the world championships. Hawaii is the pinnacle of the sport and people all around the world know about it. Hawaii counts, the world is watching," he said.
Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon will also heave Andrea Brede gunning for glory in the ladies competition which features two of world's top three athletes. "Her running performance will be good and she's strong in the water. If she can conserve energy on the bike and have a good run, I think she'll be happy with third," al Sultan reckoned. email@example.com