Egypt’s first triathlon was held in 2012. With 17 Egyptian contestants, it was a big deal back then. Now, almost every month there is an event, and 300 Egyptian contestants participated in the latest triathlon in April.
Daily News Egypt spoke to one of Egypt’s prominent triathletes, Belal Hassan, who explained the development of the sport in Egypt.
The modern triathlon dates back to the 1970s, while the run/swim/bike sport was first introduced to Egypt in 2009.
Egypt’s triathlon federation was established in 2009. Hassan said the year marked the first gathering for sport practitioners for training.
The events usually take place in Egypt, in touristic resort towns, such as Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, that can provide room for the competitions.
Newly introduced sports usually face slow starts, and the triathlon is no exception.
“Players take care of almost all training budgets on their own,” Hassan said, citing one of the hurdles facing Egypt’s triathletes.
He also said the army is the Triathlon Federation’s main sponsor, even though it is not their responsibility.
Hassan started playing the three sports – running, cycling and swimming – separately since he was a child, before hearing about the triathlon late in 2010.
“When I first told my family I’m going to participate in a triathlon, they couldn’t imagine how is it possible for person to do that [participate in the three races back to back],” he said.
“After that they started to tell me I should concentrate on my career,” Hassan added, highlighting the absence of the concept of athletic profession.
The sport debuted in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but Egyptian triathletes have not qualified for the Olympics yet.
Hassan, 29, is the best triathlete in his age-group in Africa. However, Egyptians have yet to break into the top 100 in the world rankings.
Egypt’s resort city Sharm El-Sheikh will host from 9-10 May the Triathlon African Championships and Pan Arab Championships, an event that can help boost Egyptian triathletes’ hopes for Olympian qualification to the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Winning one of the top three spots in the upcoming competition will give the nation higher points in its bid to send its athletes to the Olympics, says Hassan.
Hassan highlighted South Africa, Morocco and Egypt as the main contenders for the African championship. “We have 3-4 triathletes we can put hope on,” he added.
60 men and 60 women take part in the Olympics competitions of the game, and complicated methods of qualification leave Egyptian triathletes’ hopes only in securing a world ranking that can grant them qualification.
Hassan was realistic about qualification hopes for Egyptians, but he remained hopeful saying: “We still have more than 440 days ahead of the games.”