Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1289, (31 March - 6 April 2016)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1289, (31 March - 6 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Perfect place

Arab and African triathlon championships start today in Sharm El-Sheikh, reports Inas Mazhar

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Twenty-two countries will be taking part in the three-day African event while eight countries will battle it out in the Arab tournament. Both triathlons conclude Saturday.

President of the Egyptian, African and Arab triathlon federations Ahmed Nasser said the two championships are being held in Sharm El-Sheikh for the second year in a row. “Last year’s events were a huge success. Our partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Al-Akhbar newspaper paid off and the events were so spectacular. Sharm El-Sheikh is the perfect spot for our sport. It has it all -- the sea for swimming and perfect roads for running and cycling, in addition to enthusiastic crowds who give a cheerful vibe to the competitors and the event. Thanks to Governor Khaled Fouda, all facilities are allocated for the sake of the tournament,” Nasser said.

“This year, we decided to add more sideline events to be held after the competitions are through, like training camps for Egyptian, Arab and African teams, training courses for coaches of the sport and meetings of the executive boards of the Arab confederation. Other competitions in the aquathlon (swimming and running) and duathlon (running-swimming-running) will also take place during the 10-day event.

“The reason we planned so many events is to show our contribution and social responsibility to the nation and the city of Sharm El-Sheikh, aiming at putting the city in the media spotlight and occupying more touristic sleeping nights,” added Nasser, who is also president of the African Union of African Sports Confederations Association.

Nasser added that the African championship is the most important as athletes rack up points that could add up to qualification to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “The African quota includes two male and two female athletes in the Olympic Games. Egypt is to face tough competition from Morocco, Mauritius and Namibia. But a second place finish could secure us a place in the Olympics,” Nasser said.

A triathlon is a multi-stage competition involving swimming, cycling and running in immediate succession over various distances. The first recorded triathlon took place in San Diego, California on 24 September 1974. It was organised by the San Diego Track & Field Club as an alternative to the rigours of training on the track. The race, which took place in San Diego’s Mission Bay, consisted of a 5.3-mile run, followed by a five-mile cycle and a 600-yard swim in the bay. A total of 46 athletes finished the race.

The triathlon grew rapidly from its humble beginnings in San Diego and within a matter of years it became one of the fastest growing sports all over the world.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was intrigued by the sport’s meteoric growth and began discussions to include it in the Olympic Games in 1988. Then IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch arranged a meeting in Stockholm that year with the intention of including the triathlon in the Olympic Games as soon as possible. At that meeting Canadian Les McDonald was selected as president of a working committee for the triathlon, while Sweden’s Sture Jonasson was elected secretary.

The International Triathlon Union was founded one year later, on 1 April 1989, at the first ITU Congress in Avignon, France. A total of 30 national federations attended the initial congress and preparations were made for the sport’s first world championships to be held in Avignon in August of 1989. At this meeting the Olympic distance was set at a 1.5-km swim, 40-km bike and 10-km run. More than 800 athletes representing 40 countries competed in the first world championships. Canada’s Les McDonald was elected as ITU’s first president in 1989.

Since its inception in Avignon, the ITU had maintained its headquarters in Vancouver, Canada but on 1 January 2014 it was moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, home of the IOC. From its founding the ITU has grown to include over 120 affiliated national federations around the world. ITU began the World Cup series in 1991, staging 11 races in eight countries. The Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championships Series (now the ITU World Triathlon Series) was created as ITU’s top tier race series in 2009, staging eight races in eight countries.

The triathlon was officially added to the Olympics by the IOC at its congress in Paris in 1994. It made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Games in Sydney, with Switzerland’s Brigitte McMahon and Canada’s Simon Whitfield earning the sport’s first gold medals.

Spain’s Marisol Casado was elected as ITU’s second president in November of 2008. She became an IOC member in February of 2010 at the 122nd IOC session in ITU’s hometown of Vancouver.

The Egyptian Triathlon Federation was founded in 2009 and joined the ITU in 2010.

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