Abu dhabi:Omani nationals, Sulaiyam Al Alawi and Ahmed Al Falhi, are encouraging more of their countrymen to join the growing triathlon scene as they prepare to represent the Sultanate in the region's biggest triathlon event, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 2.As part of the 'Local Heroes' initiative, spearheaded by event organiser, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), Al Falhi is contesting the pure power 111.5kms short course, withAl-Alawi eyeing the competitive sprint distance, at 55.75kms.
The Omani duo willjoin eight other amateurs from five Mid East countries competing in the US$230,000 Abu Dhabi eventwho have been tasked with developing the sport in their respective markets and helping unearth future regional talent under the pioneering scheme.
Fortunately Al Falhi and Al-Alawi are not alone in their pursuit of growing Omani triathlon, with the Oman Triathlon Committee, formed by the Ministry of Sports Affairs in 2008, organising over ten triathlons annually in the Sultanate in an effort to foster local talent.
Ali Al Saidi, Secretary General of the Oman Triathlon Committee, said: "We are proud to have triathletes such as Al Alawi and Al Falhi represent Oman at the region's biggest and most prestigious triathlon in Abu Dhabi. The appetite for the sport in Oman is certainly growing. We currently have a total of eight Omani triathletes training and participating at regional and international events and we are hoping that through events such as the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon we will encourage more Omanis to take up the sport."
Twenty-eight year old Omani Sulaiyam Al Alawi — who began competing with his brother Badr in 2005 — is one of the eight international Omani stars taking on events around the world, including last year's Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. "It isa wonderful experience to compete in world-class events, such as the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, and getting the chance to meet like-minded athletes and rub shoulders with some of the world's best triathletes such as TEAM GB's gold medal winning Olympic triathlete, Alistair Brownlee, who is contesting the short course as well," said the new father and sports teacher at Mazin bin Ghadooba School.
Competing alongside Sulaiyam for Omanis Al Falhi, a professional diver for the Royal Navy of Oman. The 31-year-old, father-of-two loves diving in the Sultanate's open waters and is looking forward to competing in his second Abu Dhabi International Triathlon where he aims to finish in his age group's top 10.
"Competing in this event is like competing at home for me. I am glad that the UAE has taken the initiative to put on a fantastic triathlon event that has been a success for four years now and allows amateurs like myself and other GCC nationals to compete. Al-Alawi and I are delighted to be able to support the Oman Triathlon Committee's initiative,"
said Al Falhi.
Since its inception last year, Abu Dhabi's 'Local Heroes' programme has gone from strength to strength, helping to develop the sport across the Middle East. In 2012, GCC sign-up swelled to 979 athletes, an increase of 27 percent over 2011, with the biggest growth coming from the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar.
The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon offers the option of competing in the 223km 'Long course' (3km swim, a 200km cycle and 20km run), the half-length 'Short' course (1.5km swim, a 100km cycle and a 10 km run) and the 'Sprint course' (750m swim, a 50km bike and 5km run). Both the 'short' and the 'sprint' can be run as a team relay.