The daring Egyptian duo of professional triathlete Omar Nour and adventurer Omar Samra, dubbed ‘Team O2’, set off on Thursday in the world’s toughest rowing race – an unsupported, 3,000 nautical mile journey from San Sebastian, La Gomera in the Spanish Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua.
The perilous journey is part of an annual ocean-rowing race called the Atlantic Challenge. 28 teams from 17 countries descended on La Gomera this week to take part in the 2017 race. If Nour and Samra successfully complete the gruelling crossing, Team O2 will be the first Arab team to row across an ocean. They are also setting off with a close watch on the world record for pairs, which is 40 days, 4 hours and 3 minutes.
Nour and Samra have been preparing for the gruelling challenge for 10 months. Their preparation has included high-intensity physical conditioning to morph their bodies into that of elite rowers – the athletes have added a combined 27 kilos of body weight which they expect to lose over the course of the crossing, and have completed over 200 hours of rowing on their boat.
As well as the physical, the duo have undergone significant mental and medical training to ensure their safety during the row, completing courses such as the RYA Yacht-master Ocean Theory, First Aid at Sea, Sea Survival and a VHF Radio License. They have also learnt how to self-administer IV drips, and Nour, a type 1 diabetic, has been fitted with a continuous glucose monitor that sets off an alarm to alert his teammate should his blood sugar drop below a critical level.
The boat, named ‘Jan’, is 7.5m long x 1.8m wide and built of wood, fibre glass, carbon fibre and Kevlar. It is equipped with a water-maker to change the sea water into drinking water; solar panels to power GPS and other vital electrical equipment; 90 days’ worth of food rations; medical kits; tracking beacons; an ‘AIS’ allowing O2 to communicate with passing vessels; a satellite telephone and specially designed laptop called a ‘tough book’ to allow O2 to communicate with the outside world.
A small cabin is the only protection O2 will have against the might of the ocean. When the weather proves too much for the boat and it capsizes, it is able to self-right.
Nour and Samra met in 2013 and became firm friends, united by a passion for sports and adventure. Nour has represented Egypt on the Olympic triathlete circuit, while Samra was the first Egyptian to climb Everest, and the 7 Summits. He’s also skied to both the North and South Pole.
“I can’t believe this is it – we’re finally on the start line!” Nour said from the start line in La Gomera. “The preparation we’ve gone through to get to this point has been intense – no outside assistance is permitted during the crossing, as soon as we row out of this harbor we are at the mercy of the elements – so its been imperative that we get every single detail locked down.
“It’s been incredible to have our whole support team here in La Gomera over the last week – our family, friends and the team from DHL – and to meet the other 27 teams. It really brings it home that we are part of something big. We truly hope we make everyone proud!”
His team-mate had also been waiting with excitement to get going.
“I’ve never been happier to get to a start line!” Samra said. “Although I have a good amount of experience as a mountain and polar adventurer, one thing is for sure – the ocean is very different to mountains and ice! I’ve learned so much through over the last 10 months and we truly couldn’t have done it without the support of the team around us, including our partners at DHL.
“There will no doubt be challenges along this incredible journey – when you’re faced with 50-foot waves, blisters, salt rash and sleep deprivation, that’s a given! But we’re as ready as we can be, and excited to get out there and show the world what you can do if you set your mind to it.”
The first successful Atlantic Ocean crossing was completed by Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway in 1966 – a 92-day battle against hurricanes, 50 foot waves and near starvation. Sir Chay Blyth made a guest appearance at the start line today in La Gomera to set the race off.
Team O2 are proud to partner with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to help raise awareness of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and around the world.
You can track Team O2’s progress across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the other 27 teams, on www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com, as well as get regular updates live from Team O2 on their social media channels.
Egyptian champion swimmer Farida Osman is hoping her latest achievement, of winning the Mohammed bin Rashid Creative Sports Award last week, can inspire young Arab women to pursue sport, and prove to the world that females from this region can excel at the highest level.
The 22-year-old Osman became the first Egyptian — male or female — to claim a medal at a World Aquatics Championship in the pool when she took 50m butterfly bronze in Budapest last July. She shared the podium with swimming superstars Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Sarah Sjostrom, and was given a hero’s welcome when she returned back to Egypt.
Her feats earned her the ‘Distinguished Athlete’s Achievement’ award at the MBR Creative Sports Award ceremony in Dubai last week, where Osman’s fellow Egyptian Nour El Sherbini, the world No. 1 in squash, was also honoured.
“Winning with Nour is I think something very important to Arab women, because we are representing Arab, Egyptian women, so the fact that we won this award is just getting awareness and attention from people all over the world that Arab, Egyptian women are capable of competing at the highest level, of being great athletes,” the two-time Olympian told Sport360.
“Hopefully we can use this platform to show the world that we’re capable of competing in sports. So we’re defying the odds and hopefully we will inspire and encourage other young female Arab, Egyptian athletes to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. So hopefully we are good role models for them.”
El Sherbini has been at the top of the squash world rankings for the past 20 consecutive months, and has been making history for Egypt in the sport — winning the British Open, the World Championship and a slew of other prestigious titles.
Happy and proud to win the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award as best Arab Athlete Thank you United Arab of Emirates and everyone who voted and chosen me for this award also Congratulations to Farida Osman for winning the Sports Achievement of the year. pic.twitter.com/bzzmLvMDRf
— Nour el Sherbini (@noursherbini) November 28, 2017
Osman, who has smashed multiple records during her time swimming for UC Berkeley in the NCAA, is back in the United States, pursuing a Masters degree and continuing with her career in the pool, keeping an eye on Tokyo 2020.
She says she’s far from done with the sport and that getting recognised for her swimming is a big motivation to keep going.
“This award means so much to me because it represents what I’ve been working hard for, all my training, all these years, so having to be able to get recognised and acknowledged after all this hard work and this really hard journey is just an amazing feeling. And getting recognised in general, this is what helps athletes to keep going and keep pursuing what they want to achieve,” added Osman.
The MBR Creative Sports Award is not just of great prestige, but it also comes with a significant monetary value, that can help sustain Osman’s career.
“Honestly money wasn’t really my drive to continue swimming or to perform well,” she admits. “I always try to believe and know that I only swim for myself and all these achievements are to me personally, not for the money. Of course money kind of gives you motivation but it’s not the number one driving force. I feel like my number one driving force is just me achieving my goals. And having money on the side is like a bonus.”
FULL LIST OF MBR CREATIVE SPORTS AWARD WINNERS
UAE Sports Personality Award: HE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (UAE)
Arab Sports Personality Award: HRH Princess Rima bint Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud (KSA)
UAE Outstanding Athlete Award: Omar Abdul Rahman Al AMoodi (Football)
UAE Referee Award: Ebrahim Yousef Al Mansoori (Beach Soccer)
UAE Coach Award: Saeed Bin Suroor Al Khaldi (Horse Racing)
UAE Organisation Award: UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation
Arab Outstanding Athlete Award: Nour Atef El Sherbini (Egypt – Squash)
Arab Administrator Award: Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Al Gannas (KSA)
Arab Referee Award: Tarek Bin Mohamed Souei (Tunisia)
Arab Coach Award: Faris Ibrahim Al Assaf (Jordan)
Arab Team Award: Iraqi Youth Football Team U16
International Organisation Award (Association of Summer Olympic International Federations): Union Cycliste International (UCI)
International Organisation Award (Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations): International Cricket Council (ICC)
UAE Emerging Athlete Award (Nominees – voting to continue until December 31)
1. Hussain Yousuf Anwar (Football)
2. Ammar Mohammed Al Sedrani (Chess)
3. Maitha Abdulla Hasan (Judo)
4. Wadima Saeed Abdulla (Jiu Jitsu)
5. Omar Mohammed Alwan (Jiu Jitsu)
6. Abdalla Guhloom Al Maazimi (Taekwondo)
Arab Emerging Athlete Award: Mohammed Mustafa Al Sowaiq (KSA – Taekwondo)
Distinguished Athletes Achievement Sports Award: Farida Hisham Osman (Egypt – Swimming)
Difficult Challenges Award (People of Determination Category)
1. Abdellatif Baka (Algeria – Athletics)
2. Fouad Baka (Algeria – Athletics)
Olympic Creative Sports Award
1. Mohammed Gammoudi (Tunisia – Athletics)
2. Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco – Athletics)
Kuwaiti professional BMX rider Mansour Al Safran is one of his country’s most talented and popular sportsman.
The 26-year-old, who took to the two wheels of the BMX bike at the age of 14, immediately developed a strong passion for the freestyle sport, which sees riders scale incredible heights at speed, make airborne twists and turns and gravity-defying tricks.
While the lack of facilities for extreme sports in general hindered Al Safran’s initial progress as a rider in Kuwait, it’s now a different story as Al Safran knows first-hand.
The Skate Park Adventure in Abu Dhabi, Skate Park in Lebanon and Trampo in Kuwait, among others, have given riders and adrenaline junkies new places to ply their trade throughout the Gulf.
“Growing up finding places to train was difficult but times have changed now and the support for extreme sports in the region is now stronger than ever,” Al Safran, who now helps to grow his profession and judge competitions, said.
“For example, before there was no skate park here in Abu Dhabi and in the rest of the GCC and you had to ride outside – learning new tricks on the streets wasn’t safe.”
Al Safran’s development as an athlete led to full-time sponsorship with Red Bull – a brand he has now been affiliated with since 2014. A man of many talents, he is also a long-term member of the Kuwaiti Kayak national team.
He said: “I feel so happy to be a Red Bull athlete and ride BMX. All athletes have a dream and you can get it, this year or even after five years, you just have to keep going.”
To date, arguably Al Safran’s finest feat came back in 2013 in Malaysia, where he won the Asian freestyle tournament by winning the bronze medal.
Watch the video above (courtesy of Abu Dhabi Sports Council) to learn more about the rider.