Faris al Sultan, the Al Ain-based triathlete, will spearhead the four-strong Abu Dhabi team at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii tomorrow.
Al Sultan won the World Championship in 2005 and finished in third place in 2004 and 2006. The German is the founder of the Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon and he will captain a quartet that features Australia's Pete Jacobs, Germany's Andi Bocherer and the UK's Rachel Joyce. The event includes a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and a 42km run.
After suffering a stress fracture at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March, al Sultan, 32, is not over-confident. "First of all I will hopefully arrive in Kona without any health problems," he said. "So I think I can improve on my 10th place of 2009. "But you never know how the race will go. I'm not sure if I can repeat the victory of 2005 but my chances of getting under the top 10 are really solid.
"My running has improved, compared with last year and since I was only five minutes from top five and 11 minutes from first place in 2009 I hope to make up some places. My personal goal is a top-five result. Al Sultan has been preparing for the big event in California. "I started a good build-up in winter and spring in Al Ain," he said. "Unfortunately, I was injured in March. "I got back relatively fast after the stress fracture had healed but a seven-week break from running wasn't exactly beneficial to my training plan.
"Fortunately, I could swim and ride the bike. Two Olympic distance races brought me back into the game and they went well. My season highlight was winning the inaugural Ironman in Regensburg. "Last year I developed a training routine which I will also follow this year. Part of the routine consists of a challenging bike ride, as well as a long run with race-specific elements. "The uniqueness of this triathlon is that nowhere in the world is there a stronger starting field combined with the history and enigma of this event. Hawaii is 'the race' in long-distance triathlon."
Al Sultan plans to leave the island of Kona, where the event is being held, and return to the UAE to begin preparation for the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge in December. "I will leave the island pretty soon after the race," he said. "It's not that I don't like it but I want to spend some time at home. "The following four weeks are recovery weeks and I will start to prepare for the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.
"After we had to drop out in 2009, the main goal is to cross the finish line. As running through the desert, mountain biking, climbing and canoeing are the disciplines, I have to practice some of them more, to get used to all the equipment."