DUBAI // Competitors had more than the finish line on their minds at a memorial triathlon on Saturday.
More than 350 athletes and 14 teams took part in the Roy Nasr Memorial Sprint and Super-Sprint event at the JA Jebel Ali Hotel and Golf Resort in memory of the champion triathlete who died last month on a training ride in Dubai.
Organised by Race ME Events, it marked the first official event of the 2013-14 season.
To hotel guests and onlookers the triathlon resembled any ordinary weekly competitive race. But as fellow triathletes, colleagues, family and friends swapped stories about Nasr, it was apparent the event was a poignant celebration of an inspirational man, cherished by many.
A moving speech given by Ian Le Pelley, Nasr’s close friend, recalled a man who was not only a dedicated athlete and thoughtful friend, but also a devoted husband and father.
An army of volunteers lined every inch of the swim, cycle and running course, and included Nasr’s wife, Tina, who manned a busy registration desk.
People from all backgrounds lined the water as three waves prepared for the start.
An emotional briefing given by Le Pelley reminded competitors to run with Nasr in mind.
“When it gets tough, let him inspire you,” he said. “In the water, on the bike or treading the run, keep a great man in mind along the way.”
It brought together people from the ever-growing UAE triathlon community as well as many from other sports clubs across the country.
Oliver Godart took first place in the sprint with a time of 1 hour 1 minute 11 seconds; Kirsten Baillie won the women’s division in 1hr 15mins 40secs. The winner of the Super Sprint category was Sam O’Shea with a time of 36mins 4secs.
Nasr, 49, was killed by a motorist while riding his bike near Safa Park in the early hours of September 6. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Tala, and son, Elie.
Traffic prosecutors charged W J, a 24-year-old Filipino, with drinking alcohol and driving under the influence of alcohol and on September 30 he was sentenced to one month in jail and ordered to pay Dh200,000 in blood money to Nasr’s family.
This week, Dubai prosecutors announced they are appealing the ruling on the grounds the punishment was too lenient.
Nasr, who was Lebanese, was a former Arab triathlon champion and finished third at the 2011 World Triathlon Championships in Beijing.
“Despite his enormous sporting accomplishments, Roy was not a man of bravado or swagger,” said Le Pelley. “He was a gentle, humble, kind and considerate person who carried himself with calm confidence and grace. He delighted in other peoples’ successes as if they were his own.
“He inspired hundreds not only to be better sportsmen and sportswomen, but also to be better people. He had a ready smile for everyone, and had the ability to make people feel secure and happy as soon as they met him. He was dearly loved by many people.”
The first wave of swimmers left the shore at 7am followed by wave two at 7.15am, both taking part in the Sprint category – 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre bike and 5km run. The Super Sprint competitors made up wave three and embarked on the 375 metre swim, 10km bike and 2.5km run.
The event was expertly organised “just as Nasr would have liked” said many who knew him.
Spirits were high and all levels of athletes were included and made to feel welcome.