How Ghani Souleymane broke down barriers to make endurance history

How Ghani Souleymane broke down barriers to make endurance history
Dubai-based Togolese Ghani Souleymane only the third person to complete 30 Ironman triathlon distances in 30 days at Dubai Fitness Challenge last month. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 December 2023
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How Ghani Souleymane broke down barriers to make endurance history

How Ghani Souleymane broke down barriers to make endurance history
  • Dubai-based Togolese became only the third person to complete 30 Ironman triathlon distances in 30 days at Dubai Fitness Challenge last month

“There were days I woke up and I felt like I can’t do it anymore, because I was extremely exhausted,” said Ghani Souleymane.

Those familiar with the Togolese athlete’s almost superhuman endurance capacity will understand the weight of those words, uttered in the aftermath of his outstanding achievement at the recent Dubai Fitness Challenge.

From Oct. 28 until Nov. 26, Souleymane, a prominent and popular member of Dubai’s sporting community, tackled a challenge only two people had previously achieved — to complete 30 full Ironman triathlon races in 30 days.

“Days two, 11 and 18 were among some of the most personally challenging,” he recalled. “I was in pain, absolutely exhausted, and barely functioning. Some days I could not even sleep and I could barely feel my legs.”

Souleyman, a resident in the city since 2017, is no stranger to the pain game.

The Adidas athlete rose to prominence by running 30 ultramarathons in 30 days in 2020, before completing 30 Ironman 70.3 events — a 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike ride and 21.1 km run — in 30 days the following year.

His latest feat has seen him honored in the Dubai Fitness Challenge Hall of Fame for the second time by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai.

“I’m fortunate to have been born with a gift for endurance and sports,” said the 40-year-old. “I am passionate about encouraging everyone to harness the benefits of fitness and sport to make themselves mentally and physically stronger. I believe it is part of my duty to give back to others.”

Souleymane set out to raise funds and awareness for the Heroes of Hope not-for-profit group, run in partnership with Al Jalila Foundation, which supports children and young adults through sport.

The organization is “dedicated to empowering children with special needs to gain confidence through sports,” he said.

“As an athlete myself who is active in several local communities, I see how much power sport has to bring people together and enrich our daily lives. I chose Heroes of Hope because I have trained a lot of the children there, and the experience touched me spiritually and emotionally. I see so much potential in these young athletes.”  

It was, he says, his way of giving back to the country that has welcomed him and allowed him “to flourish” as an athlete.

 “Where some see an obstacle, I see an opportunity,” Souleymane said. “I love challenges, and endurance is the biggest challenge in sports.”

But how does he even begin to prepare for such a task?

“Running and sports are already a really big part of my life. I’m an assistant coach at LK Running Performance, which is a leading running performance company here in Dubai run by coach Lee Harris,” Souleymane said.

“I am also a coach at Adidas Runners Dubai, so I train seven days a week. In this way my fitness allows me to be ready for anything I choose to do as a challenge.

“For this particular challenge, my training was more focused on getting better on the bike, which was very kindly sponsored by Trek Dubai,” he added. “Sponsorships and support such as theirs made a huge difference — even my local breakfast spot 95 Degrees gave me a daily breakfast after my 3.8 km swim each day at Kite Beach.”

Souleymane’s challenge, laid out in numbers, is eye-watering: 30 daily Ironman events consisting of a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and 42 km run.

The schedule required him to be up at 5 a.m. to complete the swim,  and then, after a meal and short rest, head down to Dubai’s Meydan cycling track to complete 18 loops of the 10 km route.

Then, the small matter of running a full marathon. The three disciplines took up to 16 hours, leaving Souleymane to average only two or three hours of sleep a night as he struggled with growing fatigue and muscle pain.

“Many things went through my mind during my daily Ironman, the most common one being ‘why?’, and how this little ‘why?’ can help those kids and how this challenge can inspire others.”

Marathon runners notoriously experience what they call “hitting the wall,” when their bodies are simply overcome with fatigue and threaten to shut down.

“Hitting the wall, yes, it happened many times, especially from day 10 when I couldn’t sit on the saddle, when the pain became so unbearable that I couldn’t even speak to my helpers — my running community friends Emily, Yuri and Vicki.

“There were days I almost crashed on the bike from exhaustion.”

Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.

Dean Karnazes wrote the book — literally, “The Ultramarathon Man” — on endurance running, and that mantra is echoed by Souleymane.

Giving up, he said, simply “wasn’t an option.”

“To keep going in those circumstances, I need to remind myself why I’m doing it, what impact I want to make in my community, and prove the impossible is nothing.”

As he neared the end, both literal and metaphorical, exhilaration awaited.

“I thought about the final day as a motivation, thinking that I will be among just three people in the world who have completed this kind of challenge,” he said.

Mind and body would take several weeks to recuperate. Having just completed this monumental, but physically exhausting, achievement, Souleymane could be forgiven for not racing to set new targets just yet.

But, then again, he is no ordinary athlete.

“New goals and challenges are already coming to mind,” Souleymane said. “I was thinking about this during the challenge. I do believe that I have a responsibility to my sponsors and supporters, as well as how this kind of challenge impacts the community.

“I am proud to be a representative of sports in the UAE, and to be sponsored also as a black athlete — this is additionally important in terms of diversity.”


Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
Updated 25 June 2024
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Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America

Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay at Copa America
  • Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2

HOUSTON: James Rodriguez rolled back the years with a vintage performance to help Colombia open their Copa America campaign with a 2-1 victory over Paraguay in Houston on Monday.
Rodriguez, whose club career has languished in the decade since he rose to prominence with a dazzling performance at the 2014 World Cup, created both of his team’s goals in a deserved Group D victory at the NRG Stadium.
The 32-year-old midfielder, who has played just a handful of minutes for Brazilian club Sao Paulo in the two months leading into the Copa America, set up the opening goal for Colombia in the 32nd minute.
After finding space on the left flank, Rodriguez flighted a pinpoint cross to the far post to pick out Daniel Munoz, who beat Paraguay goalkeeper Rodrigo Morinigo with a firm downward header to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes later Colombia doubled their lead and again it was a goal engineered by the trusty left boot of Rodriguez.
This time the goal arrived from the opposite flank, with Rodriguez swinging in a wicked free-kick that was glanced in by Crystal Palace midfielder Jefferson Lerma.
That made it 2-0 at half-time to leave Colombia firmly on course to extend their unbeaten streak to 24 games.
Colombia continued to carve out the better chances in the second half, but Paraguay set up a nervy finish after Brighton and Hove Albion’s Julio Enciso pulled one back in the 69th minute.
Ramon Sosa crossed from the left and Enciso punished slack marking in the Colombia area to hook an angled first-time volley into the bottom corner past Camilo Vargas.
Colombia, however, controlled play after the Paraguay goal and looked the more threatening team.
The Colombians thought they had earned a penalty in the 84th minute when another teasing Rodriguez cross into the box ended with defender Yerry Mina appearing to be hauled down by Gustavo Velazquez.
Argentinian referee Dario Herrera pointed to the spot but subsequently overturned the decision after a VAR review.
Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2.
Brazil open their Copa America campaign against the Costa Ricans in Inglewood, California, later on Monday.


Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo
Updated 25 June 2024
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Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

Zaccagni rescues Italy leaving Croatia in Euro 2024 limbo

LEIPZIG, Germany: Mattia Zaccagni’s superb last-gasp strike fired Italy into the Euro 2024 knock-outs with a 1-1 draw against Croatia in a fraught Group B clash on Monday.

Italy progress in second place behind winners Spain and will face Switzerland in the last 16, while Croatia are on the verge of elimination but could still progress depending on other results later in the week.

With only two points it is unlikely Zlatko Dalic’s side will qualify as one of the four best third-place teams but it is still possible.

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric became the oldest goalscorer in the competition’s history with his strike after 55 minutes, just 33 seconds after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved the 38-year-old’s penalty.

It seemed enough for his team but Zaccagni whipped a brilliant strike into the top corner on the break in the 98th minute to send Italy through from what was dubbed a “group of death.”

After shipping five goals in the first two games, Dalic opted to shore up the midfield by bringing in Mario Pasalic and Luka Sucic amid four changes.

The coach also kept established trio of Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic despite their struggles in the 3-0 defeat by Spain and 2-2 draw against minnows Albania.

Luciano Spalletti’s Italy beat Albania 2-1 but were dominated by Spain in a 1-0 defeat and the coach shifted to a 3-5-2 formation, dropping Juventus’ Federico Chiesa.

Croatia dominated the opening exchanges against a defensive Italy side knowing a draw would send them through in second place behind group winners Spain.

On his first start at the tournament 21-year-old RB Salzburg midfielder Sucic forced a fine early save from Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma with a vicious drive from range.

Azzurri forward Mateo Retegui’s header was deflected narrowly wide at the other end on a rare forray forward, with the two-time winners happy to slow the game down and waste time at corners and throw-ins as early as the 20th minute.

Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made a stunning stop to thwart Alessandro Bastoni, found by Nicolo Barella’s tempting cross, as the holders gained control without taking risks.

Dalic, who steered Croatia to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup final and semis respectively, threw on powerful striker Ante Budimir for the second half.

It gave his team a focal point and they looked instantly more threatening and swiftly reaped their reward.

Italy substitute Davide Frattesi handled Andrej Kramaric’s effort and after a VAR review Croatia were given a penalty.

Donnarumma clawed out Real Madrid midfielder Modric’s effort but the veteran could not be denied 33 seconds later.

The Italian goalkeeper made another fine save in the aftermath from Budimir as Croatia kept the pressure up and Modric smashed home the rebound from close range.

He beat the previous record for oldest Euros goalscorer set in 2008 by Austrian Ivica Vastic by 32 days.

Modric was replaced with 10 minutes to go and even some Italy supporters afforded the playmaker an ovation, while they nervously eyed the ever-advancing clock.

Croatia thought they had progressed but Zaccagni broke their hearts in the eighth and final minute of stoppage time.


Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
Updated 25 June 2024
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Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out

Spain complete perfect Euro 2024 group stage as Albania go out
  • It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship

DÜSSELDORF, Germany: An early Ferran Torres strike gave Spain’s second-string side a 1-0 win over Albania on Monday as the three-time champions finished the Euro 2024 group stage with a perfect record and the defeat eliminated their opponents.
Barcelona winger Torres finished off a fine move in the 13th minute in Duesseldorf to puncture the atmosphere in a stadium filled with a majority of noisy Albanian fans.
However, this game was not a cruise for a Spain team showing 10 changes to the side which started their 1-0 win over Italy four days earlier.
Spain had already secured top spot in Group B, but Albania knew they realistically needed a win to go through and that made for a frantic encounter at times, particularly as they pushed forward in the second half.
Despite their best efforts, Albania go home after picking up only one point and finishing bottom of a difficult section.
It is a regression for them from their debut European Championship appearance in 2016, when they also went out in the first round but did manage to win a game.
Beating a Spain side who have probably been the most impressive so far in Germany was always going to be a big ask for Albania, coached by former Barcelona left-back Sylvinho.
It is the first time since 2008 that Spain have won all three group games at either a World Cup or European Championship.
Coach Luis de la Fuente can now turn his full attentions to a last-16 tie in Cologne on Sunday against an as-yet unknown third-place finisher.
Center-half Aymeric Laporte was the only Spain player to keep his place following the Italy game, with key midfielder Rodri suspended and everyone else given a breather.
Goalkeeper David Raya, defender Dani Vivian, left-back Alejandro Grimaldo and midfielder Martin Zubimendi, all largely untested at international level, came in.
There was also a start for Jesus Navas, who was part of the Spain teams that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and who is now 38.
Even Laporte was removed at half-time, replaced by Robin Le Normand, while Lamine Yamal and Alvaro Morata also appeared in the second half.
Albania, ranked 66th in the world, knew it would be a big ask to beat Spain having lost all of their eight previous meetings.
Spain first threatened in the 12th minute when Mikel Merino’s header was saved by goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, and a minute later they were ahead.
Dani Olmo stepped into the space between the Albanian lines to receive a pass, and then fed a measured ball in behind for Torres to latch onto.
The former Manchester City player timed his run perfectly and finished with precision too, his first-time effort going in off the far post.
Torres has made a habit of scoring at these tournaments, having netted twice at the last Euros and twice at the 2022 World Cup.
It took Albania until the final minute of the half to test Raya, the Arsenal shot-stopper flying to his right to parry a powerful strike by Kristjan Asllani.
Joselu hooked a Grimaldo cross just wide moments after the restart for Spain, before the Albanian fans raised the noise levels as they became aware of events in the other match.
They were very close to equalising when substitute Armando Broja met an Asllani free-kick and tried to lob Raya, but the goalkeeper saved.
Asllani then fizzed an effort just wide, and Broja was again denied by Raya in stoppage time as Albania bowed out.


Rohit stars as India beat Australia to reach T20 World Cup semifinals

Rohit stars as India beat Australia to reach T20 World Cup semifinals
Updated 24 June 2024
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Rohit stars as India beat Australia to reach T20 World Cup semifinals

Rohit stars as India beat Australia to reach T20 World Cup semifinals
  • India captain’s dashing innings — he faced just 41 balls, including seven fours and eight sixes — was the cornerstone of a total of 205-5
  • Australia eventually finished their reply on 181-7, with left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh taking 3-37

GROS-ISLET, Saint Lucia: Rohit Sharma led from the front with a blistering 92 as India beat Australia by 24 runs in St. Lucia on Monday to seal their place in the semifinals of the T20 World Cup.
The India captain’s dashing innings — he faced just 41 balls, including seven fours and eight sixes — was the cornerstone of a total of 205-5 made after he lost the toss.
Australia eventually finished their reply on 181-7, with left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh taking 3-37.
India will now face defending champions England in Thursday’s semifinal in Guyana.
Defeat meant Australia’s fate was no longer in their own hands.
Afghanistan, who produced a stunning upset in beating Australia by 21 runs last time out, will qualify for the semifinals if they defeat Bangladesh later Monday in the concluding Group One game of the Super Eights.
Australia lost David Warner for just six when the veteran left-handed opener was undone by a full-length delivery from Arshdeep that he could only edge to Suryakumar Yadav at slip.
Travis Head, whose superb century crushed Indian dreams of a 50-over World Cup final win on home soil last year, kept Australia in the hunt with a well-made 76 off 43 balls.
His second-wicket stand of 81 with skipper Mitchell Marsh looked to be turning the tide.
But Marsh was brilliantly caught one-handed on the boundary by a leaping Axar Patel off Kuldeep Yadav for 37.
Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep then bowled dangerman Glenn Maxwell for 20 with a superb ‘wrong-un’ on his way to fine figures of 2-24 in his maximum four overs.
And when Head holed out off a superbly-disguised slower ball from paceman Jasprit Bumrah, Australia were all but beaten at 150-5 in the 17th over.
Earlier, India star batsman Virat Kohli holed out for a five-ball duck off Josh Hazlewood, with Tim David taking a fine running catch over his shoulder.
But fellow opener Rohit then cut loose. He was particularly severe on Mitchell Starc, the only change to the Australia team following their upset defeat by Afghanistan.
He hit the left-arm fast bowler for 29 runs in a third over where he struck four sixes — two in successive balls over extra-cover, a monster hit over deep midwicket and a top-edged full toss over the wicketkeeper.
But with Rohit threatening the first hundred of this tournament, Starc bowled him with an excellent yorker.


India beat Australia by 24 runs to secure World Cup semifinal spot 

India beat Australia by 24 runs to secure World Cup semifinal spot 
Updated 24 June 2024
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India beat Australia by 24 runs to secure World Cup semifinal spot 

India beat Australia by 24 runs to secure World Cup semifinal spot 
  • Australia on brink of World Cup elimination, need Bangladesh to beat Afghanistan in upcoming fixture 
  • Indian skipper Rohit Sharma sinks Australia with blistering 92-run knock, Arshdeep Singh returns 3-37 figures 

Gros-Islet, Saint Lucia: India beat Australia by 24 runs in St. Lucia on Monday to reach the semifinals of the T20 World Cup.
India captain Rohit Sharma led from the front with a blistering 92 — from 41 balls, including seven fours and eight sixes — as his side posted a total of 205-5.
Australia were then held to 181-7, opener Travis Head top-scoring with 76 in an innings where left-arm paceman Arshdeep Singh took 3-37.
India will now play defending champions England in Thursday’s semifinal in Guyana.
Australia will fail to reach the last four if Afghanistan, who defeated them by 21 runs in a stunning upset last time out, beat Bangladesh in the concluding Group One game of the Super Eights stage later Monday.
South Africa, unbeaten in the tournament, have qualified alongside England for the semifinals out of Group One.