Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Winning Streak

In conversation with Dr. Shaikh Saqer bin Salman Al Khalifa, President, Bahrain Triathlon Association

“You don’t retire from Triathlon, you graduate to this sport!” says Dr. Shaikh Saqer bin Salman Al Khalifa, the President of Bahrain Triathlon Association (BTA).  A multi-faceted personality Dr. Saqer is known for his quirky blog posts and unrelenting love towards Triathlon.

“I used to be part of most of the sport teams at my school, including football, basketball, volleyball, marathon relay and what more. An average player in most of them, I must say I was good at Football and marathon relay as I was a good runner,” Dr Saqer told BTW. Having played for Muharraq club for three years, he strongly believes in the positive impact that every sport can have on the wellbeing of society. “Getting together with all your friends for a game and winning one can give you greater fulfillment than you might expect.” He continued, “Every human knowingly or unknowingly is hungry for satisfaction. If you are a business person, to achieve that kind of contentment might take time until you are probably 40, when your profits might hit a million dollars. With sports every time you finish a game, it gives you the pleasure of achievement. Even associating one’s self with the winning team of a match could give you the happiness you have been waiting for since long. ”

An Alumnus from one of the prestigious military colleges in the world, Dr. Saqer earned his PhD in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. “It was during the stressful life through the final years of my doctoral studies that had me diagnosed with Diabetes. But I learned from my experience that a strict sports training regime along with proper medication could keep my diabetes numbers better than anyone’s.”

It was nearly a year after he was tested positive for diabetes that he participated in the first Triathlon of his life. “My friend and I participated in the Triathlon that was organised by The Bahrain Roadrunners at Marina Club. Even though I ended up finishing third from the last, crossing the finishing line gave me the bliss I’d never felt before. It was so satisfying that I couldn’t wait for the next Triathlon to happen.”

It didn’t take time for Dr. Saqer and his friend to participate for every Triathlon happening in the Kingdom and the adrenaline rush the duo experienced had them joining Bahrain Roadrunners to participate and of course organise more Triathlons every year in the kingdom. “With strict training we molded ourselves to be fit to participate in the Ironman challenge in Singapore. It was for the first time that Bahrain had its team at the Ironman challenge.” Remembering the historic moment, Dr. Saqer says, “Even though our performance didn’t earn us any medals, the joy of the moment is more than what words can explain.”

Explaining the benefits of the Triathlon, Dr. Saqer says, “When early and late thirties are the age you retire from other games, 38 is the average age of performance for a tri athlete. For this year’s Ironman Middle East challenge we have a participant who is 64 years old. And I remember a participant aged 84 during the Ironman Challenge in Florida.” It can’t be left unsaid that this is one sport that has you graduate from all your weaknesses and rise to be a winner, even if you actually haven’t won a medal.

Since the formation of BTA in 2013 by the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Dr. Saqer had been serving the position of President in the association. Explaining the objectives of the association he said, “Our objectives are in line with the visions of Bahrain 2030 and Bahrain Olympic Committee. Our three major goals are: To have Bahrain known internationally and especially in the region for Triathlon, to have our national team which can qualify in the Olympics and one day we can have our share of the podium, and finally to educate the young generation about Triathlon, which can help develop good tri athletes, that can in turn help us achieve the first and second goals.”

This year IRONMAN 70.3 Middle East championship is being hosted in Bahrain, all thanks to the efforts of BTA. Dr. Saqer shared the pride of the moment with us. “We had been in constant discussion with the organizers since long and with the CHALLENGE Bahrain Triathlon event we had them calling us to be the venue for the Middle East challenge. Last year we had 200 athletes participating and this year we are expecting over 300.” Also elaborating on the importance of the challenge being organised as a regional one, he explained, “Instead of 30 qualifying spots this race will provide us with 40 qualifying spots at the world championships for all age groups”

Inviting all the Bahraini and non-Bahrain population to the event Dr. Saqer said, “You can be part of the Ironman Middle East challenge in four ways: You can register through the Ironman website and be there as a participant; you can email us and be there as volunteer supporting the athletes with water or food; you can be there cheering for our athletes as spectator.  Also, if you own a business, you can be part of our expo. You can have a stall at our venue in BIC and showcase your products and services.”

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