Kenya’s Paul Muturi happy to keep setting the pace for Dubai’s elite runners

Paul Muturi of Kenya is one of the best, consistently setting the tempo that elite runners need to match to win races and break records. (Sherif Samy)
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Paul Muturi of Kenya is one of the best, consistently setting the tempo that elite runners need to match to win races and break records. (Sherif Samy)
Paul Muturi of Kenya is one of the best, consistently setting the tempo that elite runners need to match to win races and break records. (Sherif Samy)
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Paul Muturi of Kenya is one of the best, consistently setting the tempo that elite runners need to match to win races and break records. (Sherif Samy)
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Updated 15 September 2021

Kenya’s Paul Muturi happy to keep setting the pace for Dubai’s elite runners

Paul Muturi of Kenya is one of the best, consistently setting the tempo that elite runners need to match to win races and break records. (Sherif Samy)
  • The pacer recently helped Gerda Steyn finish 15th in the Women’s Marathon at Tokyo 2020

DUBAI: You’re the runner that leads the marathon. You’re faster than most of the field. The one that even the Olympians are chasing. But you never cross the line first, if at all.

That’s the life of the pacersetter.

Paul Muturi of Kenya is one of the best, consistently setting the tempo that elite runners need to match to win races and break records.

In a nation famed for churning out medium- and long-distance champions, Muturi started running as a form of escape. Mostly, escape from ennui brought about by civil unrest.

“I got serious about it in 2008. This is when we had an election in Kenya, and there was post-election violence. I found myself sitting the whole day, doing nothing, life was just messed up,” he said. “So I was like, why don’t I find something I can do to keep myself busy and forget about everything that is going on.”

At 24, he found what he was looking for. Running would change his life.

“When peace came back and everything was back to normal, because I saw I was making progress, and I loved it, I continued from there and I never stopped,” Muturi said.

In 2011, Muturi decided to leave Kenya, armed with the knowledge that running could open doors for him wherever he ended up.

“I just want go away somewhere and move away from my usual life in Kenya,” he said.

That somewhere turned out to be Dubai. Running, he said, proved a pathway to finding regular work as well.

“I knew that my running will get me out of every situation I’ll be in, I knew that running was the only way,” he said. When you’re a runner, you meet managers, you meet big people in companies. When you’re both running, when you both have your shoes and your shorts on and you meet in running club, that manager would want to talk to you and see how you do your running, how you eat your food, your lifestyle. I knew when I left Kenya, when I came here, I’ll still have a life because I’ll meet people who love running.”

His first job was as the “IT guy” at Abela & Co, the established food management firm.

“I kept doing my running although it was hectic, the salary was not that great,” he remembers.

His boss and former Arab triathlon champion, Roy Nasr, was tragically killed after being hit by a drunk driver while on a bike ride near Safa Park in 2013. He had already had a major influence on Muturi’s career.

“He really supported me and tried to get me a better job in the office,” said the Kenyan. “At the same time that he passed away I got another job through a friend. It was at a logistics company (Blue Axis Shipping) and I stayed there for some time. My boss liked me so much and even paid for me to go to London, I did a 10k there back in 2015. We came back, I continued in my running.”

From 2018, he has been working as a sales coordinator at Global Climbing Trading. And still running.

Make no mistake, Muturi is formidable competitor in his own right, and his personal best time of 2 hours 30 minutes for a marathon makes him one of Dubai’s fastest runners. In 2018 he was chosen as an Asics FrontRunner and now represents the Japanese brand in the region.

But it is his role as pacesetter for other runners that has increasingly brought him attention, and in recent times he has worked with Gerda Steyn, the South African Dubai resident who finished 15th in the Women’s Marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“We’d known each other for few years and last year she approached me after COVID and asked if I could assist her with the speed sessions,” Muturi said. “She was good in long runs, but you cannot do speed by yourself, you need someone who is quicker than you. She has a coach in South Africa, she gets her program from there, and then I do the pacing for her.”

“Currently we are doing more speed sessions and tempo runs, and she’s preparing for the Cape Town Marathon next month (Oct. 17),” he added. “If flights had been allowed earlier I would have prepared well and I would have gone with her to do the pacing there.”

Muturi has his own races to run, but says the heat and humidity of Dubai’s summer months have been “killing him,” as he prepares for the start of the city’s running season.

“I’m coming back slowly, trying to put on milage, 20k, 25k and now going almost to 30k, in a weekend,” he said. “I’m trying to do 120k in a week, including both speed sessions and long runs as I wait for her to come back, and the season is about start also.”

“Next weekend I might do the Ajman run, but I’m sure I will not perform well in the first race, I just want to get my rhythm back,” he said with a heavy dose of humility. “I’ll do 5k, and maybe do another 5k in the Super Sports Night Time (series). By then I know my rhythm would have come back. You get the rhythm from racing, not from training.”

After that, he is eyeing the Creek Striders Half Marathon and potentially the 10k at the Abu Dhabi Marathon on November 26.

Pacesetting, by definition, is a selfless undertaking. It comes with sacrifices. You do the work so that others benefit.

“You must concentrate, you need to check the watch all the time,” Muturi said. “If her coach says we have to run at three minutes per kilometer, you need to keep checking the speed. Maybe after 200m, after 400m. Everything is on you, you need to check how she is breathing. If she’s struggling you need to find out. If she’s slowing down you need to encourage her to push. Or if you see she is not responding you need to slow down a little bit so she could catch up. She just has to follow you, she doesn’t have to do anything else.”

Is there ever a temptation to not pull out of the race, to just keep going, maybe even cross the line first? He laughs at the suggestion, but maintains this is a serious business.

“The pace setter can screw up, you’re the one who can make or break her race,” he insists. “They’re the person who is on your heal, they just follow you. So if you slow down their pace, you screw up. If you go quicker maybe you burn them, because you’re taking them at a pace they are not used to.”

Most mornings and evenings you can find Muturi on the running track of Dubai Sports City and, for longer runs, at Nad Al-Sheba cycling park. Occasionally he’ll hit the trails of Jebel Jais or Showkah village in Ras Al Khaimah.

At 37, he is happy, and happy to keep on running. To keep on setting the pace.

“I love sports,” he said. “I would love to work with a sports brand in the future. When I see a new pair of (running) shoes, I go mad. I like when I’m walking around in my full Asics gear, that’s my passion. If I can do that in the future, I’ll be really, really happy.”


World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York
Updated 20 September 2021

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York

World No. 1 Nelly Korda joins Saudi Aramco Team Series golf championship in New York
  • The tournament is one of the European Tour championships, with prizes amounting to $1 million
  • It will be held on Oct. 14-16 at the Glen Oaks Club course

JEDDAH: World No. 1 golfer and Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda and her sister, Jessica, have joined the list of top female golfers for the third Saudi Aramco Team Series tournament in New York.
The tournament, one of the European Tour championships, with prizes amounting to $1 million, will be held on Oct. 14-16 at the Glen Oaks Club course. The female golf professionals competing include five of the top 20 players in the world.
The organizing committee had previously confirmed the participation of American Solheim Cup stars Lizette Salas and Lexi Thompson, in addition to Anna Nordqvist, who plays for the Ladies European Tour and has won three major championships, including the 2021 Women’s British Open.
“The Solheim Cup was the best example of how much the players and fans liked the team system, so when I learned about the Saudi Aramco Teams Series championship I decided to be a part of it, and I’m really excited to have it on my calendar this year,” Saudi Press Agency cited Nelly Korda as saying.
Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said that the list of names participating in New York will be the strongest yet.
The Aramco Team Series system is a new concept in golf, where the players compete in teams, which is unusual in this individual sport. The prize for each championship in the series is $1 million and teams compete for a prize of $800,000, plus $200,000 for the best singles score over the weekend.


FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar
Updated 20 September 2021

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar
  • World football's governing body wants to launch a "new consultation phase" for the international women's and men's calendar
  • UEFA president is fiercely opposed to the proposal and threatened that European nations would boycott a biennial World Cup

PARIS: FIFA has invited football’s national federations to an online summit on September 30 to discuss the international calendar, in its push to hold the World Cup every two years instead of four.
World football’s governing body wants to launch a “new consultation phase” for the international women’s and men’s calendar, set to expire at the end of 2023 and 2024 respectively.
“There is a broad consensus within the game that the international match calendar should be reformed and improved,” FIFA said in a statement Monday.
“Following invitations to stakeholders, including all confederations, at the beginning of September, discussions are being organized in the coming weeks.
“FIFA also invited its member associations to a first online summit on 30 September 2021. This is one of several opportunities to establish a constructive and open debate, at a global and regional level, over the coming months.”
The proposal for a biennial World Cup was revived in March by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now head of global football development at FIFA.
The idea would be to have an international tournament each year from 2025-2026, alternating World Cups and continental tournaments like the European Championship and Copa America.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is fiercely opposed to the proposal and threatened that European nations would boycott a biennial World Cup.
South American confederation CONMEBOL said the project had “no sporting justification.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised decisions on staging a World Cup every two years would be made by the end of the year.
Last week FIFA published an online poll that claimed a majority of football fans support the idea of a “more frequent” World Cup.
The results of the survey came in stark contrast to the opposition of numerous national supporters groups worldwide.
Global players’ union FIFPro has denounced “the absence of a real dialogue” on the subject, pointing out the “natural physiological limits” of footballers.
“Without the agreement of the players, who bring all competitions to life on the pitch, no such reforms will have the required legitimacy,” said FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.


Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner

Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner
Updated 20 September 2021

Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner

Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner
  • Messi stared sharply at PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino and appeared to snub a handshake as he came off
  • As he was coming off, Messi made a gesture with his hands apart as if to say he didn't understand

PARIS: Lionel Messi hit the crossbar with a curling free kick and looked angry at being taken off in the 75th minute in his home debut Sunday for Paris Saint-Germain.
Substitute Mauro Icardi scored deep into stoppage time as PSG scraped a 2-1 win over Lyon in the French league to make it six straight victories.
Messi stared sharply at PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino and appeared to snub a handshake as he came off. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner, who is still chasing his first PSG goal in his third appearance following his shock move from Barcelona, sat glum-faced on the bench.
As he was coming off, Messi made a gesture with his hands apart as if to say he didn’t understand, and Pochettino attempted an explanation afterward.
“Everyone knows we have great players in the squad, we have 35 players. But we must make decisions for the good of the team. Sometimes they lead to a positive result and sometimes not,” Pochettino said through a translator. “These are decisions we need to take. Sometimes it pleases people, or it doesn’t. I asked him how he was, and he said he was fine.”
On the field, Icardi found space to head in Kylian Mbappe’s precise cross from the left in the 93rd.
PSG fell behind in the 53rd when Brazil midfielder Lucas Paqueta finished neatly, after forward Karl Toko Ekambi picked him out with a low cross to the front post.
Neymar equalized from the penalty spot in the 66th after he was fouled by 18-year-old right back Malo Gusto.
Lyon coach Peter Bosz was unhappy with the call.
“It’s not Malo who fouls Neymar, it’s Neymar who puts his hand on him and fouls him,” Bosz said. “I can understand if the referee didn’t see it, but then there is VAR.”
Lyon’s long-serving president, Jean-Michel Aulas, went even further by calling the decision “an aberration” and saying the referee should have used video review.
Messi almost scored in the 32nd.
He found Neymar down the left and sprinted to meet Neymar’s clever reverse pass, but goalkeeper Anthony Lopes read Messi’s low shot well and denied him with his legs.
Four minutes later, Lopes was stuck to the spot as Messi hit the crossbar with a free kick from 25 meters.
Messi, whose last Champions League goal for Barca was away to PSG in last season’s round of 16 return leg, also hit the bar in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Club Brugge.
PSG is five points ahead of bitter rival Marseille, having played one game more.
Marseille earlier beat Rennes 2-0 to move into second place with striker Bamba Dieng getting his third goal in two games.
After Dieng turned in a cross from midfielder Pol Lirola in the 48th, substitute Amine Harit scored in the 70th after cutting in from the left flank.
Also, Amine Gouiri missed a late penalty as fifth-placed Nice was held to a 2-2 draw by visiting Monaco in a thrilling French Riviera derby.
Gouiri had the chance to make it 3-2 from the spot in the 82nd following a hand ball by defender Benoit Badiashile. But he missed the target.
Monaco striker Wissam Ben Yedder’s penalty five minutes earlier made it 2-2, moments after Gouiri and Andy Delort set up midfielder Hicham Boudaoui.
After Nice forward Kasper Dolberg limped off with a knee injury, midfielder Aleksandr Golovin put Monaco ahead in the 39th from a right-wing cross by Gelson Martins.
Delort, who replaced Dolberg, equalized in the 50th as he headed in Gouiri’s cross. Gouiri has four goals and two assists in six games.
Struggling Monaco is in 14th spot.


‘It feels like a sporting revolution’: Saudi Karate Federation president hails KSA progress

Dr Musharraf Al-Shehri, President of the Saudi Karate Federation with Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi. (Supplied)
Dr Musharraf Al-Shehri, President of the Saudi Karate Federation with Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi. (Supplied)
Updated 20 September 2021

‘It feels like a sporting revolution’: Saudi Karate Federation president hails KSA progress

Dr Musharraf Al-Shehri, President of the Saudi Karate Federation with Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi. (Supplied)
  • Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri says Tarek Hamdi’s Tokyo success was ‘pivotal moment’ for sport

 

JEDDAH: Tarek Hamdi’s heroic silver medal at Tokyo 2020 and the third place finish by the Saudi women’s karate team in the kata competition of the International Karate1 Premier League tournament held in Cairo recently have ushered in a new era of achievement and progress in the sport, the president of the Saudi Karate Federation has said.

Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri told Arab News that the high-profile performances of Hamdi at the Olympics in particular “brought attention” to karate in the Kingdom and will help spur further development of the sport.

“The medal sent out a message,” Al-Shehri said. “And the message is ‘yes we can — we can compete on the biggest stage.’”

Hamdi and the successful women’s team will prove a source of inspiration for aspiring athletes to take interest in karate and other sports, he added.

“We are very happy to see Saudi Arabia gaining such a reputation in karate,” said Al-Shehri. “This confirms that we are on the right path in the the sport as per the vision engineered to develop it, enabling the Kingdom’s champions to produce honorable results.”

Al-Shehri started his career as a karateka and won the Saudi Championship seven times. He has also represented the Kingdom’s national team in many regional and international tournaments as a player, referee, and was chairman of the West Asian Karate Referees Committee, member of the Asian and Arab Referees Committee, advisor to the Athletic Federation of Saudi Universities.

“Today is one of the most important moments in Saudi karate history,” he said. It is a “game-changing moment” that will open sport up to more people than ever before, “creating new heroes and fueling future success,” he added.

“It feels like a sporting revolution and the start of something new. We want the people of Saudi Arabia to feel this change, share it, celebrate it, connect to our athletes and support them on their inspirational journeys.”

However, Al-Shehri said that the transformation is a result of the hard work of all previous federations, and not just the current one.

“We are continuing what the previous administrations started, but for us as a new management, we hope to bring the level of karate sports to the highest level,” he added.

“What Tarek achieved left a true imprint of Saudi karate and put the name of the Kingdom on the highest platforms in the world.”

He added that the rise in standards is down to the policies of the Saudi Karate Federation and its successful plans to develop the sport, as well as the full support of the authorities responsible for Saudi sports. The federation is now hoping to compete for more medals at the 2021 World Karate Championships to be held in Dubai from Nov. 16-21.

Al-Shehri thanked everyone who has worked with him during his tenure as president, including administrators, players, coaches, referees, members and colleagues of former members of the board.

He also praised the unequivocal support of Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz Al-Faisal, and hailed the government’s decision to include the martial art in school sporting curricula.

“I see that the future of karate is great in the Kingdom, especially in light of the great support of the generous leadership of all sports,” he added.

Speaking to Arab News at the Second Kingdom Open Championship for girls aged under 15 in Jeddah, Al-Shehri lauded the performance of the Saudi women’s team in Cairo.

“Though it was the first participation for the women’s team at the international level, the team managed to achieve a bronze medal in Cairo,” he said. “This is very promising for the future of the Saudi female team.”

With the rising popularity of karate as a sport, Al-Shehri expects participation to surpass 100,000 people at all levels as more local competitions are established.

“In fact, I think that the number is small compared to the size of the Kingdom, and I hope that the game will spread more and we will see more heroes like Tarek Hamdi, and that the competition will be high,” he said.


Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership

Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership
Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership

Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership
  • New 10-year deal will see the Asian Tour sanction the championship from 2022, with an increased prize fund

SINGAPORE: The 2022 Saudi International presented by SoftBank Investment Advisers will mark the start of an historic chapter in golf, as the event becomes sanctioned by the Asian Tour as part of a new 10-year partnership.

The tournament, which will take place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club near Jeddah from Feb. 3 to 6, 2022, will also feature an increased purse of $5 million, up from $3.5 million. The Asian Tour partnership is aiming to elevate the event in significant emerging markets around the world.

In 2021, the Saudi International presented one of the strongest fields in world golf, joining an elite group behind only the Majors and a small number of professional championships in the ranking points offered to competitors.

“Today marks a significant development for our flagship golf event and our vision to strengthen the depth of world-class golf events, both in the GCC and also on the international stage,” said Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation.

“The importance and potential of Asia’s role in world golf is undeniable, not least due to its position as a global economic powerhouse,” he said, adding: “This partnership will unlock many opportunities for players, sponsors and fans of the game. Most importantly, we are eager to help build a more inclusive game for all eligible professional golfers that spans borders and cultures by fostering collaboration with major tours and see this as an exciting first step on that journey.”

The deal with the Asian Tour, the official body for golf in Asia and a full member of the International Federation of PGA Tours, will introduce new commercial prospects and enable more professional golfers to qualify and compete for life-changing opportunities.

“This is an outstanding development for the Asian Tour that will create significant benefits for our membership, key stakeholders, and fans alike,” said Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour.

“The Saudi International presented by SoftBank Investment Advisers is a world-class tournament which has become truly global. We are thrilled that it will be the showcase event of the Asian Tour’s season, spearheading our expansion into new frontiers.”

While the Saudi International presented by SoftBank Investment Advisers will mark the start of a revamped 2022 schedule, the Asian Tour is also in the process of finalizing plans to complete its combined 2020-2021 schedule, which will be announced in due course.