Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Triathlete Faris Al Zaabi says the world will emerge stronger from coronavirus

Emirati is training under lockdown in Spain but believes in a brighter future

Emirati triathlete Faris Al Zaabi believes the world can learn vital lessons from the coronavirus pandemic – and emerge wiser and stronger when it's all over.

Al Zaabi relocated to Spain in 2017 to pursue a career as a full-time athlete after studying for a degree in kinesiology in Canada.

And despite being locked down in one of the world's virus hotspots, Al Zaabi managed to find inspiration from others.

“I feel confident and hopeful that we will overcome this pandemic and learn immensely from it,” he told The National.

And, drawing on the wisdom of ServiceSpace founder Nipun Mehta, Al Zaabi added: “If a tree is going to withstand a storm it needs to be grounded and have strong roots. It is obvious that we have a storm of changes coming our way.

“We can create a resilient interconnected ecosystem too as we tackle the changes forced upon us from Covid-19."

Spain has seen more than 20,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic and almost 200,000 reported cases.

“It is apparent that everyone has been affected by the Covid-19,” Al Zaabi said. “We are globally living in chaotic, stressful and uncertain times.”

Al Zaabi’s training for the three disciplines of triathlon – swimming, cycling and running – have been confined to inside, but he still manages two or three sessions a day.

'It is always a sport you can train in,” he said. "Although I have no access to a pool, I have made modifications to my training.

“I use swim chords to simulate swimming, an indoor bike trainer for my rides, and luckily, I have an old, rusty, treadmill that a friend let me borrow. The motor shuts down occasionally, but I have managed to fix it.

“It reminds me of the days I would blow on the contacts of the Sega game cartridges when the games would not load.

“Virtual training and racing are quite popular at the moment. I use Zwift [online cycling and running physical training program to meet up, train and race with my friends virtually.”

Al Zaabi’s main objective for the 2020 season is to challenge for continental honours. He won the UAE’s first medal, a bronze, in the duathlon at the 2019 ATU African and Arab Championship in Egypt in October.

He is not sure when competitions will resume but was monitoring the developments of the sport’s governing body.

“The World Triathlon Executive Board met last Thursday, via videoconference, to continue monitoring the status and well-being of the World Triathlon family, and the impact that the Covid-19 outbreak is having across the triathlon community,” he said.

“World Triathlon events have been suspended until 30 June. As for my competitions, the priorities have shifted ever so slightly.

“The protection of everyone's health and containment of the virus should be the priority. This virus has demonstrated how globally interdependent we are.”

Al Zaabi said he had no idea when this situation could come under control.

“One thing I am sure of is that controlling the spread of the virus starts with us,” he said.

“If we follow the rules and regulations set out by the authorities then we can collectively slow down the propagation of the virus.”

While in Spain, Al Zaabi continues to keep in touch with his family back in Abu Dhabi.

“Technology has made virtual communication seamless,” he said when asked how worried his family was under the circumstances.

“I am fortunate to be able to maintain contact with my family and friends while adhering to the confinement measures. It keeps us and everyone around us safe.

“Uncertainty and doubt signal the emergence of a growth opportunity. It is time to slow down, pause, and recalibrate. We are all in this together.”

Updated: April 21, 2020 09:40 AM

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