Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 November 2019

Faris Al Zaabi 'proud' after winning UAE's first international duathlon medal at Pan Arab Championships

Emirati athlete clocked a time of 58 minutes 11 seconds in the Pan Arab men’s elite race

Faris Al Zaabi receives his medal at the Luxor ATU Sprint Duathlon African Championships and Pan Arab Championships. Courtesy UAE Triathlon Association
Faris Al Zaabi receives his medal at the Luxor ATU Sprint Duathlon African Championships and Pan Arab Championships. Courtesy UAE Triathlon Association

Emirati triathlete Faris Al Zaabi celebrated his first international medal since turning professional 14 months ago by taking bronze in the 2019 Luxor ATU Sprint Duathlon African Championships & Pan Arab Championships on Friday.

Al Zaabi clocked a time of 58 minutes 11 seconds to share the podium with winner Wajdi Homrani of Tunisia (55:39) and Egyptian Mohamed Khaled (57:24) in the Pan Arab men’s elite race.

“It still hasn’t sunk in that I have earned the first continental medal for the UAE in Duathlon,” Al Zaabi told The National.

“I am proud to represent the UAE on the international stage. My family, coach Omar González, and training partners have had a huge impact on my athletic development and I would like to thank them for their continued support.”

The race consisted of a 5-kilometre run followed by a 20km bike and a further 2.5km run.

“I was behind in sixth place after a mechanical bike issue in the second transition from bike to run where my seat post came off, which put 30 seconds behind the front pack,” Al Zaabi said.

“I successfully closed the gap on the last lap to secure third place. To share the podium in an event like this was really satisfying to me for the efforts I have put in over the last one year.”

Al Zaabi, 26, left behind five-and-a-half years of studying for a degree in Kinesiology at the University of Victoria to relocate to Europe in August 2018 to pursue a career as a triathlete.

Al Zaabi, whose training base is in Spain, plans to spend a couple of months home in the UAE where he intends to participate in various domestic multi sports races and the opening leg of the 2020 ITU World Triathlon Series in Abu Dhabi on March 6-7.

“I look forward to welcoming my training partners in Spain at the beginning of November to start our pre-season camp at New York University Abu Dhabi,” Al Zaabi said.

“I believe the university has the potential to house the country’s first High Performance Sports Centre among its existing centres like the Public Health Research Centre and Centre for Genomics and Systems Biology.

“Today, we see how centres like the Canadian Sport Institute, the English Institute of Sport, and the Centro de Alto Rendimiento in Madrid (High Performance Sports Centre of Madrid) power podium performances and are at the forefront of sports science.”

The UAE Triathlon Association sent Hamdan Jaber, 18, to compete for the first time in an international event in the youth category.

“These races are a great learning opportunity for junior athletes and I hope to see more of them come through the pipeline,” Al Zaabi said on Jaber’s participation in the race.

Earlier in August, Al Zaabi became the first Emirati to compete in an ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland. He finished 24th in a field of 83 in the 25-29 age group race at the Grand Final, a category won by Britain's James Hodgson.

Updated: October 12, 2019 03:36 PM

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