Saudi Triathlon Federation prepares future stars for international competitions

Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
1 / 6
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
2 / 6
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
3 / 6
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
4 / 6
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
5 / 6
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
6 / 6
Male and female teams of the Saudi Triathlon Federation taking part in various running and cycling exercises in Abha. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Short Url
Updated 02 June 2022

Saudi Triathlon Federation prepares future stars for international competitions

Saudi Triathlon Federation prepares future stars for international competitions
  • Six male and four female triathletes were put through their paces at a special 21-day training in Abha in May

ABHA: For the 10 Saudi athletes specially chosen to take part in a three-week triathlon training event, endurance is the key to success in a sporting challenge that few of their compatriots have ever attempted.

The first-ever training camp organized by the Saudi Triathlon Federation took place from May 8 to 27 in Abha, the capital city of Asir Province, with the aim of improving the conditioning and fitness levels of the six male and four female triathletes, as well as building a strong team spirit among them.

In a triathlon, a multi-sport event that is still in its infancy in the Kingdom, the participants must swim, cycle and run set distances with no break in between. The athlete who completes the three stages in the fastest combined time is the winner and so the transitions between the disciplines — in which the competitors must quickly switch from swimming to cycling, and from cycling to running — are a unique element of the sport.

The camp in Abha was supervised by three coaches: one Saudi and two foreigners. In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Mohamed Hafiz, a federation coach with five years of experience in the sport, explained the criteria based on which the team members were selected.

“We pick them based on their experience in the sport, their age, which should be below 30 years old, how well and fast they can swim, and also their cycling and running experience,” he said.

To be considered, the athletes had to excel in at least two of the three disciplines, and they needed to be able to maintain certain cycling and running speeds and be able to swim 100 meters in 90 seconds.

“(Cycling) requires somebody with experience and who can generate 3.5 or up to 4 watts per kilogram and … in running, somebody who can run 5 km in under 23-to-24 minutes,” said Hafiz. The final stage of a triathlon is where the action really heats up, he added.

“The race starts when they go into transition, drop their bikes and put the running shoes on — that’s when the real race starts,” he said.

There are three levels of triathlon: sprint, Olympic, and middle and long course triathlon. They each have different set distances to cover but all are extremely challenging for the athletes at that particular level.

The federation team was training for the sprint triathlon, which typically includes a 750-meter swim, often in open water such as a lake, sea or river, a 20 km bike ride and a 5 km run.

Abha’s unique terrain and weather mean it is a city like no other. At 2,200m above sea level, it is the major city with the highest elevation in Saudi Arabia and the lower oxygen levels at that altitude increase the challenge for the athletes and, ultimately, their fitness levels.

“We decided to come here and to (work on) physiological adaptation because of the high altitude and, because of this, I think they can have good performance in the future at World Triathlon Organization races around the world, and maybe even the next, or future, Olympic Games.”

The 21-day training camp included eight workshops and regular training sessions at various venues across the city. Some of them were government-run facilities, such as the running track and swimming pools at Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium, while some running sessions were also held in a hotel gym near Abha airport and cycling endurance training took place outdoors at locations such as "Monkey Road".

In recent years, growing numbers of women in the Kingdom have taken up and excelled in a variety of sports at the national and international levels. In the triathlon, Dina Al-Tayeb in 2018 became one of the first Saudi and Arab women to qualify for the most advanced level of the sport, the Ironman.

“One of the major goals of this camp is to bring more ladies to the sport,” Hafiz said.

The Saudi federation’s female team aspires to reach the level of Olympic qualification. The youngest member is 24-year-old Yasmeen Shaaban, who joined recently and has been training for the triathlon for 18 months.

“Triathlon is a sport for the crazy, as they say, because it’s crazy distances and it’s three different sports,” she said. “I believe it takes a lot in a person to get into the sport but once you get into it, it’s like an addiction — you just cannot stop.”

Last year, Shaaban participated in Ironman 70.3 Oceanside in San Diego, California, and two weeks later she competed in Ironman 70.3 Egypt. The 70.3 refers to the total distance in miles that the competitors cover in the three stages. Her ultimate goal, she said, is to qualify for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Another member of the women’s team, Madhawi Mitwalli, a doctor from Jeddah, said she has participated in sports for her whole life and became interested in the triathlon when she was looking for a new challenge.

“I get distracted a lot as I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.,” she said. “However, triathlon helped me to focus more because the training is different; like when we run, when we cycle, swimming and sprints, I never get bored.”

Mitwalli said that the sport complements her professional life, and she had a message for all women in her country.

“I would like to inspire Saudi women to get into the sport and not really limit themselves by their profession, their job and what they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to do,” she said. “Try something new and just get out there and you’ll find yourself.”

While the triathlon is still considered a bit of novelty among the Saudi sporting community, the federation aims to produce athletes capable of competing in the sport at Gulf, regional and, eventually, Olympic levels.

Abdullah Alireza, one of the most experienced members of the men’s team, who has more than nine years of experience in the sport, quit his job to launch a sports business and become a full-time athlete.

“We are just starting,” he told Arab News. “The sport is new in Saudi Arabia in general and a lot of the time we compare ourselves only to our neighboring countries, which I don’t think is fair to us.

“I think we are capable of a lot more; we are capable of participating for gold medals in the Olympics, in any major tournament.”

“I left my corporate job a few years ago and started my own performance studio. What I wish to do personally is less about becoming an athlete, and more someone who can actually build grassroots systems and bring the triathlon and sports in general into schools and clubs.”

Alireza believes that one of the attractions of the triathlon is that there is always something to look forward to that keeps participants engaged, and there are always new goals to work toward.

“What I enjoy most about the sport is the journey,” he said. “It is learning, practicing and competing, with the day-to-day hardship.”

The Saudi Triathlon Federation team will officially represent the Kingdom for the first time during the World Triathlon Championship Finals at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island from Nov 23 to 26 this year.

The federation is also keen to raise awareness of the sport and boost its popularity by recruiting younger athletes, from 12 years old, particularly those who can help improve the standards of swimming and cycling.

“For the past eight months we have been contacting schools and arranging races, and we have been giving some educational seminars about the sport to teachers, schools and colleges around the Kingdom,” said Hafiz.

“You really need to be a good swimmer to be able to compete in the world of triathlon.”


Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans
Updated 7 sec ago

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans

Qatar: COVID-19 vaccinations not compulsory for World Cup fans
  • All visitors aged over six would have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament
DOHA: Coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory for the million-plus fans going to the World Cup in Qatar later this year, authorities in the Gulf state said on Thursday.
All visitors aged over six would have to produce negative COVID-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament that starts November 20, the authorities said in new health guidelines.

Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2

Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2
Updated 29 September 2022

Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2

Saudi Arabia take on Bahrain in opening qualifier of ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2
  • Top two teams of qualification campaign in Oman will advance to final 2023 Asia Qualifier with place in 2024 World Cup at stake

Saudi Arabia on Thursday morning take on Bahrain in their opening fixture of the ICC U-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup Division 2 — Asia qualifiers taking place in Oman.

The youngsters from the Kingdom will then face the hosts on Saturday, Oct. 1, before concluding their Group A matches with a fixture against Bhutan on Monday, Oct 3.

The eight-team qualification campaign also includes Hong Kong, Qatar, Singapore and Thailand, who make up Group B, and will feature 16 matches over nine days.

The top two teams will then advance to the 2023 Asia Qualifier alongside already-qualified Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal and the UAE, with a place at the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 at stake.

The Saudi squad landed in Muscat on Wednesday after concluding a 45-day intensive training camp in Riyadh in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers.


John Cena enters Guinness Book of World Records for Make-A-Wish Foundation landmark

John Cena enters Guinness Book of World Records for Make-A-Wish Foundation landmark
Updated 29 September 2022

John Cena enters Guinness Book of World Records for Make-A-Wish Foundation landmark

John Cena enters Guinness Book of World Records for Make-A-Wish Foundation landmark
  • WWE superstar and actor honored after granting his 650th wish earlier this year

RIYADH: WWE superstar John Cena has officially entered the Guinness Book of World Records.

The multiple wrestling champion has set a new record for the most wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, by reaching 650 for their beneficiaries.

Cena’s total was called a “herculean” effort by the Guinness World Records website as no celebrity had managed more than 200.

Make-A-Wish revealed that Cena, who over the last 16 years has become a Hollywood superstar as well, is their most requested celebrity since the foundation’s inception in 1980.

Cena first worked with Make-A-Wish in 2002, and reached his landmark record on July 19, 2022.

“I will drop what I’m doing and be involved because I think that’s the coolest thing,” the 45-year-old WWE superstar said in an interview with Reuters after being honored for completing 500 wishes in 2015.

“If I can offer a fantastic experience, I’ll be first in line to do my part,” Cena added.

This isn’t the first time John Cena has had a major landmark with Make-A-Wish. He also granted the foundation’s 1,000th wish back in 2012.

Inside the ring, Cena is a 13-time WWE Champion, three-time World Heavyweight Champion, two-time WWE Tag Team Champion, two-time World Tag Team champion, five-time US Champion, two-time Royal Rumble match winner, and a 10-time Slammy Award Winner.

He is also tied with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair for the most world championship reigns in professional wrestling history.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation helps grant wishes for children aged two to 18 who have critical illnesses. The non-profit organization provides children the opportunity to meet their favorite celebrities, go to an event of their choice or grant a gift to someone else.

In 1980 a seven-year-old child Chris Greicius, who had been diagnosed with leukemia a year earlier, was granted a wish to be a policeman for a day by an officer he had befriended in Arizona.

The story inspired the creation of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which granted its first official wish to Frank “Bopsy” Salazar in 1981.


Saudi women’s team lose 4-2 to Bhutan in Abha

Saudi women’s team lose 4-2 to Bhutan in Abha
Updated 29 September 2022

Saudi women’s team lose 4-2 to Bhutan in Abha

Saudi women’s team lose 4-2 to Bhutan in Abha
  • The defeat came in the side’s second-ever international match on home soil

The Saudi women’s national football team on Wednesday night lost 4-2 to Bhutan in their second-ever international on home soil.

The defeat at Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium in Abha came four days after Monika Staab’s team had drawn 3-3 against Bhutan at the same venue.

The visitors broke the deadlock on 22 minutes through Shereng Yangdin before the same player doubled the lead only seven minutes later to leave the Saudis trailing 2-0 at the break.

Saudi Arabia reduced the deficit from a penalty by Maryam Al-Tamimi eight minutes into the second half, but Bhutan restored their two-goal lead as Yangdin completed her hat trick with another spot kick six minutes later.

Staab made several substitutions to raise her team’s tempo, but Bhutan asserted their dominance with a fourth goal on 68 minutes. Saudi star Al-Bandari Mubarak did manage to pull one goal back in the 72nd minute but there would be no addition to the scoreline as Bhutan ran out 4-2 winners.

The double-header of matches against Bhutan over the last five days marked the first matches the Saudi women’s team have played in the Kingdom, having previously played only two internationals, against the Seychelles and Maldives in February.


Saudi Sports for All launches multipurpose venue in Dammam

Saudi Sports for All launches multipurpose venue in Dammam
Updated 29 September 2022

Saudi Sports for All launches multipurpose venue in Dammam

Saudi Sports for All launches multipurpose venue in Dammam
  • 150,000 visitors expected in next 12 months, with over 250,000 in the following period
  • Jeddah’s ‘Dome’ expected toward the end of 2022

DAMMAM: The Saudi Sports for All Federation is set to open a multipurpose sports facility in Dammam this month, among several “Domes” to be launched across the country over the coming years.

Supported by the Ministry of Sports and the Quality of Life Program, the state-of-the-art facility has been set up to empower people in communities across the Kingdom by providing greater access to world-class sports and fitness resources.

Marking the launch of the new dome, the Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, said: “We are very pleased, and praise be to Allah, on the implementation of such sports projects in the Kingdom. The facilities embody the unlimited support that the leadership of this country provides to the sports sector. The opening of the domes reflects the level of achievement, development, and prosperity required to achieve the Vision 2030 objectives.”

“The Ministry of Sports is working hard to contribute to implementing the Quality of Life Program initiatives, which reflects the wise leadership’s vision in creating the right environment to improve the lifestyles of people across the Kingdom,” he added. “The facilities will enhance participation in cultural, recreational, and sporting activities that help people lead healthier lives, create jobs, promote investment opportunities, and diversify economic activity.”

The opening ceremony, in advance of the doors opening later September, was attended by the President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al-Saud, Deputy Minister of Sports Badr bin Abdulrahman Al-Kadi, Managing Director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini and several other dignitaries.

The inaugural SFA Dome will support the growth and development of sports and physical activity in the Eastern Province. Housing up to nine courts and facilities, it will cater for basketball, volleyball, tennis, five-a-side football, handball, and table tennis.

Individuals and groups can book facilities at the SFA Dome through the SFA App.

The multipurpose destination is also fully equipped to host corporate events, community programs, and educational engagements that promote sports development — such as inter-school, inter-university, and federation events.

Prince Khaled said: “We are proud to see so much enthusiasm in Dammam around the launch of the SFA Dome, the first purpose-built facility meant to bring us all closer to our goals of health and wellness. This venue is for you, your space to thrive, and we’ve launched it as part of our mission to create curated opportunities and well-designed spaces that put health and well-being first on the agenda.”

“The launch of the SFA dome marks another significant step towards enhancing the Kingdom’s wellness infrastructure for all society, its world-class features contributing to the development of the country’s ever-growing lifestyle and leisure landscape,” Prince Khaled said.

Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Bakr, CEO of the Quality of Life Program, said: “We are pleased to support the opening of the SFA Dome in Dammam: A world-class offering that will enhance our work to empower more people of all ages to practice sports. Through the launch of such modern and community focused projects, we aim to inspire an active, sports-loving generation of Saudi citizens and residents — a community of happy, healthy, and productive people that contribute to the ongoing development of Saudi society.”

The SFA expects to welcome 150,000 participants to the SFA Domes over the next 12 months, with the figure rising to more than 250,000 the following year.

The next one is opening in Jeddah before the end of 2022.

The Domes are part of the SFA’s Active Places initiatives, which aim to create an enabling environment for communities to improve their wellbeing.