Hana Al Nabulsi dreaming of Olympic triathlon glory with UAE

Emirati aiming to use experience of competing in Abu Dhabi Triathlon World Championship Finals as springboard to success

Hana Al Nabulsi is set to compete at Abu Dhabi World Triathlon Finals. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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Home hope Hana Al Nabulsi is hoping to use the experience of competing in the Abu Dhabi World Triathlon Championship Finals at Yas Bay this weekend as a springboard to competing at the Olympics.

The Emirati, participating in the women’s 25-29 age group in the finals that take place on Friday and Saturday, wants to use the opportunity to watch, speak to and learn from the elite triathletes involved.

It can hopefully provide the 26-year-old with the latest step in a career that began with a successful debut at the Dubai Women’s Triathlon in 2019. And she is not short of self-belief or focus as she looks to turn her Olympic dream into reality.

“I have given no time limit to get the qualification for the Olympics but knowing me I’ll just keep doing it until I achieve it,” Al Nabulsi told The National. “I believe in pushing myself to that level and then keep pushing myself to reach the next level.

“Whatever time I spend on this, the goal is to get there. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. I’m living my dream of winning an Olympic medal right now. Maybe not now, but it will happen. My first goal is to qualify for the Olympics.”

It is a dream that started thanks to a friendly push from a family member. “I was challenged by my cousin in an Iron Man and that’s how I got hooked to triathlon,” Al Nabulsi said.

“I didn’t know what the Iron Man was at that time. Then I took part in the Dubai Women’s Triathlon and then a second, and then dozens of triathlons. So much so, I became obsessed with the sport.

“I had never heard of the triathlon until I first took part in the Dubai Women’s Championship.

“It was pretty weird when I was told about the Iron Man, I thought what was that. And then all of a sudden I became the most obsessed person on the planet to do triathlons.”

Al Nabulsi will be among hundreds of triathletes who want to make an impression in the most prestigious events in the world triathlon calendar.

From left, Stuart Leatherby, HE Aref Awani, Marisol Casado, Khaled Al Fahim, Hana Al Nabulsi, Sharon Bayon, Hayden Wilde, and Jetze Plat ahead of the Abu Dhabi World Triathlon Finals at Abu Dhabi Sports Council. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

“One main thing that I am excited about is the fact that I’m racing in my homeland,” she said.

“This weekend I will be racing for my people and with my people, which makes it extra special. Watching the way different sporting disciplines has grown in the UAE, especially in triathlon, will make the country without a doubt a leading figure in the world of triathlon. I am excited to be a part of history, and to be able to witness it unfold is a blessing.’’

Al Nabulsi is confident triathlon will become more popular with the Emirati women both as a sport and challenge.

“Back in the day there was one at a decent level and now four, the numbers are increasing,” she said on the Emirati women’s participation in the finals.

“I want to go a step further and inspire more Emirati women to do the triathlon. It can be a community event with lots of participants just doing it for fitness or as a challenge.

“Triathlon is an individual challenge. It’s beautiful for the Emirati women to come together and challenge each other.”

The UAE Triathlon Federation has opened the doors for expatriates to compete under the country’s flag, provided they can qualify on their residency.

“That’s a good move and provides triathletes like us with healthy competitions,” she said. “I have been training for months for this race and to qualify for the races that come after this. Honestly, I want to finish with my best ever timing and I’m really excited for that.”

Al Nabulsi doesn’t believe there is a cultural barrier preventing Emirati girls participating in sports and pursuing sporting careers.

“I look at it as an individual’s decision and not a cultural barrier,” she said. “I see myself in this [triathlon] world forever. I can speak on behalf of every other woman in our team.

“When you love doing something, you’ll keep doing it. It gives us the rush and if someone stops, it means she’s lost that love.”

Al Nabulsi has lived her whole life in Dubai, aside from the four years she spent in Switzerland for her degree. She manages her own business in e-commerce that gives her time to plan her work and training.

Her parents are her biggest supporters, particularly her dad, from the time she told him of her dream to qualify for the Olympics.

“They are my cheerleaders,” she added. “I’m obsessed with my Olympic dream and I know everything that I need to do to achieve that goal.

“Our federation is like a super star for me. They have such a good system and the triathlon is a beautiful community that I have never come across ever.”

The elite women’s championship takes place at 3.15pm on Friday and the elite men on Saturday at the same time.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 12:37 PM