x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Triathlete loses his fight for life

The Australian triathlete Mark Pringle, who was the victim of a suspected hit and run incident last month, has died.

The Australian triathlete Mark Pringle with his wife, Jennifer.
The Australian triathlete Mark Pringle with his wife, Jennifer.

ABU DHABI // The Australian triathlete Mark Pringle has died, just over five weeks after he was the victim of a suspected hit-and-run incident while out training. Pringle's wife, Jennifer, was yesterday "inconsolable" after the husband she called "Superman" lost his battle for survival in which he amazed doctors who had originally given him just 24 hours to live. "His true inner strength is the real reason this man fought as long as he did," said Mrs Pringle. Pringle, 50, is believed to have been hit by a passing vehicle during a three-hour ride on the morning of July 24. He suffered head injuries and had been in a medically induced coma in Mafraq Hospital. His wife was called to the hospital on Saturday. Doctors told her his blood pressure had dropped dramatically and gave him 24 to 48 hours to live. Mrs Pringle was at his bedside when he died on Sunday. Pringle arrived in Abu Dhabi a year ago and coached at Al Raha International School. He won 33 triathlons - which comprise swimming, cycling and running - including the Australian title during a decade-long career. "His fit body became his prison," said Mrs Pringle, who also teaches at the school. "He kept outliving the doctors' expectations. His peak physical condition is the thing which helped him fight for this long. "Mark died doing something he loved. In his professional career he won many races but he never lost the love of cycling as a hobby and he loved teaching others. "Mark loved the Emirates and embraced and enjoyed learning about the culture. "If Mark's outlook on life enhanced anyone who met him to strive to be the best they can be, then he would like to be remembered that way." Mrs Pringle has been inundated with cards and sympathy from pupils and their parents. She asked people who were thinking of sending flowers to instead contribute to a memorial fund that is being set up in her husband's memory. Mrs Pringle, 45, said: "He's been here for such a short time but made such an impact on so many people. I've been overwhelmed by people's support and reactions, from the school to the embassy and, of course, the kids. I am so grateful to the staff at Mafraq Hospital and at the school." Jackie Subkhi, a friend and colleague of Mrs Pringle, said: "Mark was so well loved here in the community and at the school. "He achieved a great deal in the short time he was here and will be so sadly missed by so many people. It's such a tragic end to the life of a man who had so much to give." Wayne Macinnis, the principal, said: "Most of the children were aware that he had been involved in an accident but a lot had hoped and expected that he would pull through. A lot of the children will probably be shocked that he has passed. "He was a very popular person. He was a very lucky guy in the sense that he was able to do for a living the thing he loved the most - sharing his sports knowledge with a new generation. "He helped make our community a more pleasant and enjoyable place to live. "Although he had only been at the school for a year, he made a tremendous impression on all those people whose lives he touched. He will be very sadly missed." The school is to hold a candlelit memorial for Pringle on Thursday at 7.30pm. His wife has asked everyone planning to attend to wear clothes which they knew "Mr Mark" to have worn - his trademark flip-flops, baseball cap, surf shorts and T-shirt. Mrs Pringle will make a speech celebrating her husband's life before friends, colleagues and pupils pay their respects. A plaque will be unveiled and there are plans to rename the school's swimming pool the Pringle Pool. Pringle was the swimming director for the Australian triathlon team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He took part in his first triathlon in 1981 and competed professionally until 1993. In Abu Dhabi, he established Triathlon Middle East, with which he hoped to encourage people to become involved in the sport. Several witnesses have volunteered information to help the police investigation into the accident. Mrs Pringle, who was in Australia when it happened, urged others to come forward to help establish what happened to Pringle. "I'm sure there are more people out there who know something, however insignificant they may think it is," she said. Abu Dhabi Police were unavailable for comment yesterday. A police report blamed the accident on "non-judgement of road users". Mrs Pringle appealed to other cyclists to follow her husband's motto and "train safe". She told him to "be careful" before every bike ride, even though she knew he would never do anything to endanger himself or that of those riding with him. "It's the only day I'd never said it to him," she said. "His motto was 'train safe', and now people know why." Witnesses have reported seeing Pringle on the side of Khaleej al Arabi Road, cycling towards Abu Dhabi International Airport, at about 5.30am on the day of the incident. Julie Hall, one of two cyclists riding with Pringle, said witness statements could be key to establishing what happened. He had been riding a couple of minutes behind Ms Hall and Clint Theil. At first, Ms Hall, a sports coach based in Dubai, said she thought nothing of the delay, as Mr Pringle often stayed behind to help other riders or take photographs. But she eventually realised something was wrong and then the pair were approached by a driver who claimed to have seen Pringle laid out on the roadside. Ms Hall travelled with Mr Pringle in the ambulance to hospital. "One minute [Mark] was there and the next he wasn't," Ms Hall said. "It really makes you reflect on life. I'm still in shock. He was always such a kind and thoughtful man, which makes this tragedy even greater."

mswan@thenational.ae