Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

Faris Al Zaabi flying the UAE flag at the ITU Multisport World Championship

Emirati triathlete placed 13th in the duathlon and fifth in the aquathlon at the ITU Multisport World Championship in Spain last week

Faris Al Zaabi after competing in the Pontevedra International Triathlon Union (ITU) Multisport World Championships. Courtesy UAE Triathlon Association
Faris Al Zaabi after competing in the Pontevedra International Triathlon Union (ITU) Multisport World Championships. Courtesy UAE Triathlon Association

Faris Al Zaabi is making a name for himself as the first Emirati triathlete to compete internationally.

In his first international competition abroad, Al Zaabi finished 13th in the duathlon and fifth in the aquathlon at the Pontevedra International Triathlon Union (ITU) Multisport World Championship in Spain last week.

The Multisport World Championship is an annual event in the ITU calendar that consists of multiple endurance competitions made up of aquathlon, duathlon, cross triathlon, long distance triathlon and mixed relay. It drew more than 4,000 competitors across 52 countries.

Being his first race at the level, Al Zaabi opted to do the duathlon (5km run, 20km cycling, 2.5km run) and aquathlon (2.5km run, 1,000m swim, 2.5km run) both in the 25-29 age category held four days apart over the week.

“I was fortunate this year’s edition was in our training base in Pontevedra,” Al Zaabi told The National of his first top flight competition abroad since he first started training professionally from August last year.

“As the host city, it also gave me the opportunity to meticulously study the swim, bike and run courses, and simulate the race conditions. I’m happy with the results and experience I gained.”

Training under Omar Gonzalez, who coached Spain’s Javier Gomez Noya to a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Al Zaabi’s coach has evaluated his development plan for 2018-2019.

“I’m where I expect to be and I'm looking forward to plan for the remainder of the season and beyond,” he said

Al Zaabi is the first Emirati to compete at this level and is the sole flag bearer of the UAE at the Multisport World Championship.

“It was an honour for me to represent the country,” he said. “It was a proud moment for me. The Local Organizing Committee in Spain handled the parade of nations and the UAE Triathlon Association registered me for the races and provided me with a national team uniform.”

Al Zaabi will compete the Spanish triathlon season with his club Tripenta Terras de Lugo and continue training in Pontevedra.

“I am looking to spend the months of July and August at high altitude at the High Performance Centre in Sierra Nevada,” he said.

Al Zaabi's goal for the year is to compete in the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Lausanne, Switzerland, from August 29 to September 1, and the 2019 Aqaba ASTC Triathlon Asian Cup and West Asian Championships in Jordan on September 27.

At his base in Spain, Al Zaabi spends 27-30 hours a week training which includes swimming six days a week with a weekly average of 30,000m, and running 60-80km and cycling 200-250km a week.

Al Zaabi bears all the expenses of his training and upkeep, and as of today, still hasn’t received any support from any governmental entity.

“That’s fine but I believe a national infrastructure needs to be developed for youth and junior athletes if we want to create a sustainable high performance sports system,” he said.

Updated: May 8, 2019 03:48 PM

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