Egyptian elite Omar Nour has thrown down the gauntlet to London 2010 Olympic gold medallist, Ali Brownlee, as the two short course specialists ready to go head-to-head at Saturday’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Nour – a leading triathlon figure in the Middle East where the sport is growing exponentially – is hoping to outshine the Olympic hero on Abu Dhabi’s pure power 111.5kms middle distance, having been acclimatising in the UAE capital for the last month.
Brownlee, who is making his Abu Dhabi debut, remains confident that he will be victorious despite the strong challenge from Nour.
“He’s a quality athlete and he does have experience of competing in the area and in the heat so I’m looking forward to a good race. It will be an interesting distance, doing this short course is the perfect transition for those interested in long distance triathlon,” said Brownlee.
Egyptian Nour – who took on the feeder Tri Yas event earlier this month in Abu Dhabi – believes that a combination of local course knowledge and having local hero status could give him the competitive advantage.
“I’m from this part of the world; I know the climate, the environment and the atmosphere. I want to make the region proud and show how much triathlon has grown in the area. It’s extra pressure for me but it’s also extra motivation and I think that will give me the extra competitive edge,” said the 34-year-old, who lives in Boulder, Colorado.
“Ali won’t be use to the heat like me, this is not Yorkshire heat this is desert heat!” he added.
Nour is not the only challenge facing the Olympic champion; Jordanian triathlete Lawrence Fanous, another big name of the regional triathlon community, poses a serious threat while Cesar Beilo from the Netherlands is a much fancied contender. Other triathletes assembled for the US$230,000 Abu Dhabi event include Alexander Bryukhankov from Russia, Australian Ollie Whistler and also Rhys Davey from Great Britain, who is hoping to cause an upset against his compatriot on the Short Course.
Brownlee is excited to make his triathlon debut in the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority-backed (TCA Abu Dhabi) event as it also gives him a chance to explore the emirate.
Off the course Nour has been showing Brownlee some of the sights and helping the 24-year-old Yorkshire man learn more about Abu Dhabi’s culture and history. Together they gave a special triathlon masterclass to local children on the blue flag certified beach at the stunning Emirates Palace hotel, helping further grow the sport at the grass roots.
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 with Ali Brownlee at the forefront.
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.