Dubai Makes History in Sport – First Women’s Triathlon in the Middle East

Team GRIT - 2ND PLACE RELAY TEAM Catherine Harper, Lovita Woods, Sara-Lise Harris

This weekend marked history in the sport of triathlon in the Middle East. Dubai held the first ever Women’s Triathlon in the region, with more than 250 female participants marking the great success of the first ever event of this kind in the Middle East.  The event was organised by the Women’s Sports Committee of the Dubai Sports Council in association with the Dubai Ladies Club.

A fabulous video synopsis of the publicly photographed part of the event can be seen in this video by Sport 360.

 

While this concept seemed sexist and feminist to some, it would appear that they have missed the point.  The point is that this event provided the opportunity for women to participate in triathlon in normal swim wear as the swim leg of the race was held in the private beach area of the Dubai Ladies Club.  Modesty, culture and tradition is part of the UAE’s national heritage, and for many women, public exposure of the body and also the hair is unacceptable practice.  This does exclude them from participating in mixed gender swimming events.

The Women’s Triathlon opened up sporting doors for many women. They were able to swim freely in the ocean without scrutiny and then change into modest sportswear before entering the transition area to collect their bikes and complete their race.

Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, described the Dubai Women’s Triathlon as a platform for “positivism and happiness”.  Personally I have never seen so many happy and enthusiastic ladies in one single place.  The Ladies Club exuded happiness, athletes were thrilled and the shouts of support for incoming finishers was incredible.  The organising committee decided to donate all the proceeds from the event to the global philanthropic organisation, Al Jalila Foundation, to support women with disabilities and provide them with prostheses.  A noble cause indeed.

Photo By RahmaniLeo – In Iraq at TEDx Baghdad while Zainab was watching the event. Previously published: https://www.facebook.com/proud.disabled/photos/a.283535338354875.59913.176364452405298/995680533807015/?type=3, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Al Jalila Foundation was represented at the triathlon by three teams of three members each, one of them being the very inspiring Iraqi amputee Zainab Al-Eqabi,, who has an above knee amputation in her left leg due to a bomb that exploded in Baghdad in 1997 followed by a medical error that led to the development of gangrene in her left leg. She now uses an artificial leg.

There was word at the event that they will do it again next year.  We cannot wait. The event was very well organised, the facilities were excellent and once all the ladies were out of the water and in to the face, the club opened its doors to families,  friends and supporters making it a truly inclusive event for everyone.

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