India’s first elite Ironman athlete, 32-year-old Anu Vaidyanathan-Ahuja, is looking to be a role model to women across the Arabian Gulf as she readies to make her regional debut at next month’s flagship US$230,000 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Anu is a national icon, having broken down social and sporting barriers to become both the first Indian athlete to qualify for a 70.3 World Championship event and the first Asian to finish an Ultraman (10Km swim, 420Km bike, 84.4Km run), when she placed 6th at Ultraman Canada 2009.
And the Bangalore-based star is encouraging other women to get active and motivated by sport.
“Start gradually and enjoy the process. I see too many people try to cram everything in, in a huge rush and end up burning out. It is important to build a love for the sport into the process,” said Anu, who runs a company, PatNMarks, which specialises in Intellectual Property Consulting.
“I got started very, very gradually. I used to bike to school as a child and started running when I was 17. I used to run to stay fit, lose some weight and also to try and impress a boy. Then I started riding my bike to college and between classes and work, as it was the best mode of transport. Swimming was an afterthought and I slowly built things up and put them together – there was no miracle or overnight transformation – it was a very gradual process,” added Anu, who holds a PhD from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
A Visiting Faculty member at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, Anu has been widely heralded by women worldwide for her work-life balance, marrying her love of sport with her rising career.
“I see myself being remembered as the hardest working athlete in the sport, literally, I hold two jobs, and someone who never lets the intimidation of a difficult path stop her from trying or being proud of herself and her roots. I could not have dreamt in my wildest dreams that I would ever complete an Ultraman so, more power to daydreaming,” said Anu.
“The journey has been nothing short of incredible. I read so many letters from women all over the world telling me about how they overcame their own personal or professional obstacles to go out and run, bike, and swim after my finish at Ultraman. I think that really did encourage me to strive for greater heights,” added the ‘2012 Bajaj Allianz Most Inspirational Working Woman’ contest winner.
Anu is also looking forward to enjoying some well deserved down-time in the UAE capital following race day, on March 2nd.
“I am looking forward to meeting women from Abu Dhabi, dabbling in the local markets and getting a glimpse of the culture there. There are many similarities between our two countries.”;
Anu is one 10 athletes invited to compete in the fourth Abu Dhabi event as part of organiser, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority’s (TCA Abu Dhabi) competition to find the most inspirational stories in the sport. The event received over 100 entries from inspirational triathletes globally.
Abu Dhabi is expecting more than 2,000 athletes to compete this year, including many of the world’s top elites.
Dubbed an ‘Instant Classic’ after its 2010 debut, the event has continued to attract the world’s best for a shot at one of the sport’s richest prizes. Highlights from past years have seen World Champions Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack and Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander battle it out in the desert sun, legend Julie Dibens claim back-to-back titles and Rasmus Henning snatch the title in the closing metres from home favourite Faris Al Sultan.
The year, organisers are promising the strongest elite field to date. Leading the charge is TEAM GB’s gold medal winning Olympic triathlete and back-to-back European Triathlon Union champion, Alistair Brownlee, who is looking to expand his competitive horizons.
The 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon will start with a sunrise swim in the Arabian Gulf’s shimmering turquoise waters off Abu Dhabi’s Blue Flagged public beach, before weaving through closed roads along the Corniche Beach, up to the spectacular Yas Island and around the Yas Marina Circuit – home to the annual Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – before returning to the heart of the UAE capital.