x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Faris Al Sultan unsure about future

Captain has no idea if Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team will be sponsored next season.

Faris Al Sultan, the captain of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team, said on Thursday he feared his squad could be scrapped after the end of this year.

Al Sultan and teammates Rachel Joyce and Kristin Moller have qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, this October. But the captain said he has received no word on whether the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) will continue to sponsor the team after this season.

"We only have until the end of this year left with our association with the ADTA and I haven't heard anything about it being renewed, so that's a worry," he said. "We don't know if the contract will just run out or not."

The ADTA confirmed on Thursday that no decision had been taken about future involvement with the team.

"ADTA undertakes a regular, judicious and rigorous review process for all of its promotional and sponsorship initiatives across the board, to ensure that these programmes continuously generate positive value for our key performance indicators," a spokesperson said.

"Such a review with respect to Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team is currently in progress."

Al Sultan formed the team in June 2009, and he is seeking assurance that the partnership will continue.

"This uncertainty has held us back recently because we would have recruited more world-class athletes but they didn't want to join us because the team might only last one more year," he said.

"Nobody is going to come to us when that is a possibility. Nobody is going to join a team that may only have one year left to go."

He said the team, who are based in Al Ain, have done very well on a small budget. This season alone, Al Sultan won the European Ironman, Joyce won the Ironman Lanzarote and Moller won the Ironman UK.

"We have done fantastically well on a fraction of the budget that most of the teams we compete against and regularly beat," Al Sultan said. "We have come so far over the last three years or so, not only with the team, but also with the Abu Dhabi triathlon, which this year became one of the biggest races on the calendar with 1,500 taking part this year.

"And this is not just about the athletes, it is about promoting Abu Dhabi, which I think we have done really well, not only with the team, but the triathlon and the fact so many good athletes have used our Al Ain base for winter training."

Al Sultan, 33, won the world championship in Kona six years ago. After being crowned European champion two weeks ago in Frankfurt with his best race in some time, he is confident of what he can achieve in Hawaii.

He dominated in Germany with a winning time of in 8hrs, 13mins, 50secs, almost seven minutes ahead of the field, after an exhausting 3.8km swim, an 180kms cycle and a 42km run.

"I was really pleased with the Germany race, which went so well despite some awful conditions," he said. "It was really horrible. When we started out the temperature was OK, but by the time we got on the bike it had really plummeted.

"And I did not dress properly - a big mistake - so by my second loop of the cycle ride, I was really struggling with the cold. Quite a few people dropped out, but eventually it got a little warmer and I was able to get there.

"I was in the first group out of the swim and none of the other guys were able to ride with me. The run wasn't what I wanted but I held out in the end."

He said his performance there would have been good enough for at least a top five finish in Hawaii.

"My running is still not world class, so I have between now and then to find a bridge between the run and my swim and cycling, which have both been good," he said.

He will be joined in Hawaii by Moller, who won her first triathlon last week in England, and Joyce, who won in Lanzarote in May, to make it a trio of Ironman victories for the team in 2011.

"I am so proud of Kristin because she has had so many problems with injury and she deserves this because of her hard word," Al Sultan said. "Rachel getting to Kona is not such a big surprise because she is a true high performance athlete. These are great performances that show just what a strong team we have become in a relatively short space of time."

The team are currently training neat near St Moritz in the Swiss Alps.

 

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE