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Photo courtesy of Jaisal Friedman

Abu Dhabi ITU Daman World Triathlon

NYU Students shone in the Daman World Triathlon

Mar 16, 2019

It was freezing – at least by Abu Dhabi standards – on Saturday, March 9, as over 500 athletes in wetsuits and triathlon gear waited on the dock of the Yas Marina to take the plunge into the first section of the fifth annual Daman World Triathlon, the first season event of the International Triathlon Union world triathlon series.
The sun began to peek over the horizon at 7 a.m., just as the first athletes jumped into the water for their 1,500 meter swim. Despite the early hour, most had been up for hours in order to make the preparations for the long race ahead. After the swim, the Olympic distance triathlon continued with a 40 kilometer bike ride on the formula one racing circuit and a 10 kilometer run.
The first day of the event, March 8, was dedicated to world class triathletes, such as Spanish Olympic triathlete, Mario Mola, as well as junior and community races. The second day however, was the university’s time to shine, with six students from NYU Abu Dhabi competing in two races, the Olympic, and the Sprint – half the length of the Olympic – against over a thousand athletes from all over the world.
Jaisal Friedman, Fatih Haloglu and Cristobal Esteve competed in the sprint, while Kyle Adams, Emil Goldsmith-Olesen and Sebastiano Pio Matera competed in the Olympic race. Each athlete had their own motivation for running the race; from staying fit, to working toward bigger races in the future.
“When I came here for Candidate Weekend four years ago, we couldn’t get a city tour because the ITU triathlon was going on,” Emil Goldsmith-Olesen, Class of 2022 said. After competing in other long distance races (with less than adequate training) such as a marathon and 100 kilometer bike race, Goldsmith-Olesen planned to train carefully over the course of several months in order to build up the strength to safely compete.
He began training specifically for the triathlon last November, when he began perfecting his swim technique. Friedman on the other hand began training in January, when he arrived on campus.
Jaisal Friedman, Class of 2020, began his training with the long term goal of eventually completing an Ironman, a monster of a race consisting of a 3.86 kilometer swim, 180.25 kilometer bike, and 42.2 kilometer run. He sees this sprint triathlon as a place to start.
“This is a great time for me to start doing this, because NYUAD has amazing facilities, I have bikes on campus, a great pool, like time to train and like the space to train,” Friedman said. “I really think if I don’t do this now, I’ll never do it.” He plans on stepping up to the olympic triathlon in New York this summer, and the Half Ironman next Fall if he is ready.
The triathlon community is an intense one. A significant amount of dedication and training is required in order to not only effectively compete in, but also survive the three separate events.
“The standard in triathlon is higher… If you go to like a 5k race, or even a 10k race, you’ll see people of all levels sign up, and maybe just go on a whim, kind of off the couch,” Goldsmith-Olesen said. “One of the things I noticed about triathlon is that people take it seriously. There is a notion of respect for triathlon, and it is people that are at a certain standard of fitness, either because they have been active in the past, or are training for the triathlon very rigorously.”
Everyone acknowledges the difficulty of the distance event, and that each person running there has worked hard to get where they are. Not that all are invested just for the competition. Many just work towards it as a way to condition their bodies, or use training as a way to stay healthy. “It was for the triathlon for sure, but it was also just [because] it made me happy and fit well into my life,” Goldsmith-Olesen said.
None of the six NYUAD athletes had ever competed in a triathlon before, but luckily their training had prepared them for it. Overall, they competed well, with most reaching, or even surpassing their goals.
“I was really impressed with how hard I pushed it because I actually beat my [personal records] in all three categories, which is kind of crazy,” Friedman said.
There is a lot of planning that needs to go into completing a triathlon, from bike rentals, to event transportation and training help. Preparation doesn’t start on the morning of the event, but months earlier. The athletes even spent the day before scouting the swim course in order to test the water.
The athletes appreciated the sense of camaraderie and community around the race. “That’s a lot of the fun of it as well… the group that you train with, doing something that you didn’t think you could do, together, is really motivating,” Friedman said.
And once you are on the track, paddling through the cold, salty water, feeling the wind as you bike over the checkered line of the race track, or finally reaching the finish, all the work pays off. There is something about racing in an event like this, the fatigue, the pain, that just makes your heart race: makes you feel alive, even when it would be easier to collapse halfway through.
“I think that’s one of the addicting things about triathlons, it’s when you hit that run and you’re just gassed,” Friedman said. “Just pushing through that is an amazing feeling.”
Kyle Adams is News Editor. Email him at
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