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."