x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE police team compete in Abu Dhabi triathlon for the first time

The UAE Police Triathlon Team have competed across Europe and even ventured to the US to race against other police forces, but this will be their first Abu Dhabi race.

Police officers Ahmed al Haj (left) and Farooq al Jasmi will be among a group of police officers competing in the triathlon this weekend. Delores Johnson / The National
Police officers Ahmed al Haj (left) and Farooq al Jasmi will be among a group of police officers competing in the triathlon this weekend. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // We all know how good they are at chasing down the criminals, but tomorrow the public will find out how good the police are at chasing the clock when a group of 28 police officers compete in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

The UAE Police Triathlon Team were first formed in 1992 and have competed across Europe and even ventured to the US to compete against other police forces, but this will be their first Abu Dhabi race.

"We are here to win and to compete with the biggest names," said team's coach, Redha Bourayou. "If you're not here to win, there is no winning spirt and it's pointless otherwise. We are also here to win the respect of everyone."

The team only entered the race 11 days ago, but say they are ready to compete against the 2,000 entrants who will be swimming, biking and then running to the finish line.

Ahmed Al Haj and Farooq Al Jasmi, both from the Dubai Police Force, will be competing in the Sprint distance - a 750 metre swim, 50km bike and 5km run.

"I do about two to four triathlons a year, mainly sprint distances so the bike course will be interesting - but should be good," said Mr Haj, referring to the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon's 50km bike distance. The regular sprint bike distance is 20km.

His coach was not concerned though. "They train up to 100km on the bike regularly so the distance is not an issue for these guys," said Mr Bourayou.

In 1997, 36-year-old Mr Al Haj was part of the team who won a triathlon competition between the other GCC police forces.

"That was the turning point," said coach Bourayou. Since then, the team, who are always looking to recruit new members from all ranks, are improving race by race.

It looks like the weather will be on their side.

The water temperature yesterday was 21°C - a good sign for all non-professional athletes who know they will not be allowed to swim in wetsuits if the temperature goes above 23°C.

The ruling is for their safety - to ensure they do not overheat and run into medical difficulties - but swimming in 23°C water without a suit is a chilling experience.

"We will see how the wind is on Saturday. Everyone has to deal with it," Mr Al Jasmi said.

In 2011, even the professional athletes admitted it was one of the toughest races they had encountered because of the hot gusts of wind blowing in from the sea.

Forecasts predicted wind speeds of up to 7 knots, which should not present too much of a hindrance.

The professional triathletes will start their race from 6.40am, and non-professionals competing in the long distance (3km swim, 200km bike and 20km run) will start from 7.05am.

Those taking on the so-called "short" distance (1.5km swim, 100km bike and 10km run) will start from 7.30am, while the sprint distance will start from 9.15am - meaning most athletes will still be competing under the midday sun, which is predicted to peak at 26 °C.

Spectators are being encouraged to give their support to the athletes, although motorists should be aware of road closures.

Sheikh Khalifa motorway's inbound lanes from Yas Island will be closed between midnight tonight and 6pm tomorrow to make way for the bike course.

On Yas Island around Ferrari World, in Yas Tunnel and near the water park, there will also be traffic restrictions and the police - those who aren't racing - will be stationed along a section of Saadiyat Island where the bike course crosses.

eharnan@thenational.ae