The UAE triathlon community is in mourning following the death of “the godfather of triathlon in Dubai” Roy Nasr, who was hit by a car in the early hours of Friday morning while out cycling.
The 49-year-old entrepreneur and father-of-two – a former Arab Triathlon champion, who also finished third at the 2011 World Triathlon Championships in Beijing – had been in training for Ironman South Africa in April 2014 in the hopes of qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
He had set out in the morning with a group of local riders, among them Ali and Sarmad, who were discharged from hospital on Friday afternoon with “no significant injuries” after a drunk driver swerved into the front of the peloton that was crossing near Safa Park to Sheikh Zayed Road at 5:30am, running them over and killing Nasr on the spot.
As the co-founder of one of the city’s most popular triathlon communities, TriDubai, Nasr was well known and loved amongst his peers with paying tribute on his Facebook page. Trudy Sturkenboom wrote: “Dearest Roy, you will be forever loved and missed. The Godfather of triathlon in Dubai. Condolences, love and prayers.”
CrossFit athelete Marcus Smith added: “The man was a legend, an inspiration… rest in peace brother.”
The tragic event has also sparked a debate regarding the lack of education and awareness on road cycling and safety in the UAE. DeLauris Zailaa Hchaime wrote: “To all #TriDubai members, cyclists, Triathlon teams, I ask you to do something regarding the non-stop growing list of cyclists killed by vehicles on UAE roads! I will support you in anything I can do.”
Trace Rogers of another locally based triathlon club called SuperTri, spoke with Sport360° about the subject, citing other incidents such as this in the past year, among them triathlete Richard Holland who was left in a coma after a car hit in December, and who is awake now but still undergoing intense rehabilitation through the efforts of a charity (Back On Your Bike) set up in his name.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had two very high-profile people in the last year that have been hit and have gone through some terrible things,” said Rogers. “What it does call for is a lot more education to the general public about cyclists. We’ve lost a triathlon icon in Dubai.”
According to an update left by Nasr’s TriDubai founding partner Ian Le Pelley on the group’s Facebook page, his family – wife Tina, daughter Tala and son Elie – “are holding up remarkably well.”
Le Pelley has set up a page on the TriDubai website for tributes and messages of condolences. “I know that in due course his family will read these words, and will take some comfort from them,” he said.
Le Pelley also paid a touching tribute to his friend adding: "Despite his enormous sporting accomplishments, Roy was not a man of bravado or swagger. He was a gentle, humble, kind and considerate person who carried himself with calm confidence and grace. He delighted in other peoples’ successes as if they were his own.
"He inspired hundreds not only to be better sportsmen and sportswomen, but also to be better people. He had a ready smile for everyone, and had the ability to make people feel secure and happy as soon as they met him. He was dearly loved by many people."
Australia’s Mackenzie Horton stole the show on opening night of the 4th FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, claiming two golds and setting two championship records.
The 17-year-old Australian kicked off his meet by setting a new championship record of 3:50.25 in the 400m freestyle morning heats, before smashing it again with a 3:47.12 swim in the evening final to be crowned world junior champion for the first time in his career.
Horton fought off a strong challenge from Great Britain’s James Guy during the first 300 metres before he switched gears and touched the wall 0.93 seconds ahead of his rival.
The Australian grabbed his second gold of the night anchoring his team in the 4x100m freestyle relay in a championship record time of 3:16.96.
“I’m pretty stoked but I’m pretty tired, it’s been a long day but I’m happy with the results, and I’m happy for the team,” said an out-of-breath Horton.
“I didn’t really expect to get two championship records, I just wanted to swim as well as I could. I wanted to try and match the times that people from Australia were doing in Worlds to prove that I could have been on the team because I just missed out.
“The 400m gold gives me a bit of confidence but I’m already tired so we’ll see. I still have the 1500m, the 200m, the 800m and 4x200m as well. A pretty heavy programme.”
On how these two victories rank to what he’s achieved so far in his career, Horton said: “Definitely a highlight, this is the biggest competition I’ve ever been to.”
Guy, who ended up with silver in the 400m freestyle, is coming off a stellar season where he finished a surprise fifth in the same event at the World Championships in Barcelona last month and the 17-year-old Brit says refocusing after Worlds has been a challenge.
He does want to get revenge on Horton though in the 200m freestyle today. “It’s been a good swim,” Guy said after receiving his silver medal.
“It’s been a long season this year especially coming back off Barcelona and I did swim one of my lifetime bests so I can’t complain.
“Refocusing for this meet has been a little bit difficult. Going to European Juniors, stepping up, tap-ering, coming back down, tapering for Barcelona and then trying to do it again for World Juniors, it’s quite hard to refocus yourself.
“I still have the 200m free tomorrow, hopefully I come out with a little bit of revenge.”
The other individual final of the day saw Ella Eastin of the United States take gold in the 400m individual medley in a championship record 4:40.02.
“I’m really happy. I only added about 1.6 seconds I think from my best time so I’m really excited about that. I’m happy with my race. It was painful but I’m glad I won,” said Eastin, who is competing in her first international meet.
World and Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte set a new championship record in the 50m breaststroke heats and improved on that record in the evening semi-finals to book a spot in today’s final in 30.04.
“I’m really happy, it’s a good start,” said the Lithuanian. “I wanted to go under 29 but maybe tomorrow.”
Catherine Todd works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Wollongong in Dubai but once the final bell rings and school is out for the holidays, the 34-year-old likes to spend that time working even harder by competing in ultramarathons around the world.
She may have had to drop out of last weekend’s Berlin Wall 100 Miler with illness, but it doesn’t matter; she’s already achieved her fitness goal for 2013 – first place in the women’s field of the world’s toughest footrace, the Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California.
Congratulations on your result. How many ultra-marathons have you run in total, and what do you like about competing in them?
I have competed in many ultra-marathons and the true sense of adventure, accomplishment and challenge the race poses are amongst the most rewarding aspects for me.
Meeting all the fantastic people who are also participating and working hard to drive themselves personally and overcome the same challenge, is also a great part of the overall experience. To give you an idea, I have completed four 135-mile races, ten 100-mile races, plus several other ultra-marathons and I continue to keep going.
What have you learned from your first ultra-marathon encounter that has improved your performance today?
The correct clothing is essential to protect yourself against the elements you face throughout the duration of a race, as well as appropriate food and fluid intake to compliment the weather conditions, and training in the right environment. For me, all these elements are vital to improving performance.
I’ve been lucky in that I have been supported by brands such as Sport In Life that have seen the potential in supporting local athletes such as myself.
What are the three things you wouldn’t be caught dead ultra-marathon racing without?
My water bottle, tissues and money.
Why would you need money during a race?
You never know where you will be on an ultramarathon or what resources may or may not be available. At one ultra-marathon I had to stop and buy water because the aid stations had run out, the temperature was 35°C and we had 15kms to go.
That’s nuts! How does training for an ultra-marathon vary from training for a regular one, and what sorts of extremes do people go to?
My training schedule will differ from race to race and this depends on the distance and conditions faced during the challenge. To train for 100+ mile, single-stage races, time on your feet and cross-training is invaluable, as well as setting a pace appropriately based on the profile of the race.
Training in the conditions of the race is vital and if it is extreme conditions (for example, extreme heat) then you need to get out and train in those conditions, otherwise the race would be dangerous.
What’s a typical training week in Dubai like for you ahead of such events? Where do you prefer to train locally?
Training consists of one long run a week, a few other runs and then cross-training, but particularly heat training which is vital for Badwater and we are lucky to have access to heat in Dubai so I can train in appropriate conditions.
I like to train all over the city and in the wadis or deserts, up Jebel Hafeet and the cycle tracks (lack of traffic makes the latter preferable as well as being able to replenish with cold fluids throughout).
Did you ever go into this year’s race planning to win? And what was the first thing you did when you realised you had won?
Yes I went in to win. When I crossed the finish line I fell to the ground and cried. It was one of the happiest moments of my life and there are no words to describe it.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to prepare for a race?
I don’t think I do crazy things to prepare for races. I train safely and with other motivated people. Whilst some people think what we do training and racing-wise is crazy (like getting up at midnight, 1am for a training run), I think partying until 5am and then sleeping or feeling poorly all weekend is crazy. It’s all relative and each to their own.
Good point. So what do runners consume on these runs?
I’m assuming they burn off thousands of calories and will need to find a way to keep their energy up. What runners will intake varies; each to their own again. However, getting appropriate electrolyte, salt, sugar, protein and solid food intake is vital; frequently and in small amounts.
Do you ever listen to music during a race or would you not advise it? What’s going through your head during the course?
Yes, I often listen to music, to zone out and enjoy the run. A lot goes on through your head when you run 135 miles, but staying positive is vital.
What other races are you eyeing next?
I have the TransOmania in January 2014, which I’m an ambassador for. It is held in a stunning part of the world. It is also a distance I enjoy (100+ miles, single-stage races).
What’s your ultimate fitness goal for 2013?
I’ve achieved it; Badwater 1st Female.