CAIRO: Omar Nour is jumping through hoops to represent Egypt at the London Olympics 2012 – three hoops to be exact.
Should he succeed, Nour would be the first Egyptian triathlete on the national Olympic team, making him the pioneer of this sport in the country.
“I feel like a little kid in a candy store; wearing the Egyptian flag has always been a dream of mine, to do so at the level I will be competing at in the 2012 season is already an honor, Nour told Daily News Egypt in an e-mail interview.
Nour was born in Cairo, grew up in Lausanne, Switzerland and moved with his family to the United States in 1992. He now proudly wears the Egyptian flag in international triathlon competitions.
“My ultimate goal is representing Egypt well at the Olympics and perhaps bring home a medal, he added.
Triathlon is a multi-sport endurance event consisting of swimming, cycling, and running in immediate succession over various distances; triathletes compete for the fastest overall course completion time.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a triple major in Biology, French, and Near Eastern studies in addition to a pre-med concentration, Nour was only introduced to the sport two years ago.
“I didn’t even know what a triathlon was and was overweight at 225 lbs. On a whim, I accepted a friend’s challenge to do an upcoming race – The Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C. Little did I know that this decision would change the rest of my life, Nour said.
Finishing 8th in his age group after serious training, Nour was already looking forward to the next race; after a “successful season in 2009, there was no question this is something he wanted to pursue further.
He had partnered with his brother in an inbound/outbound call center and IT firm, Tot Solutions but removed himself from the day-to-day operations of the business to dedicate his entire time to training.
He marks the “2009 Eagleman Half Ironman (1.93 km swim, 90 km bike, 21.09 km run) as the highlight of his career; his first race with a time trial bike replacing the seven-year-old used bike he used to compete with.
“I was still an amateur when racing ‘Eagleman’ and our goal was simply to do well against the other competitors in my age group (30-34). During the race, I came out of the water in the middle of the pack and had a lot of work ahead of me; I had a solid bike segment and fast run, but we were not sure where I stood among all athletes in my age group, Nour said.
“You can imagine how excited we were to find out that I was second amateur in the entire race and that I had actually beaten a good amount of pros; that race was a pivotal point in understanding how far I had come, and it also put the possibility of turning pro on the table, he added.
Although Egypt is a world powerhouse in modern pentathlon, the Egyptian triathlon federation was established only earlier last month, headed by Ahmed Nasser, the ex-head of the pentathlon federation.
According to Nour, in order to compete for Egypt, the federation needed to be formalized with the ITU (International Triathlon Union) and this was all done just in time for the 2010 season; Ahmed Maher was appointed to manage the team.
“He has been nothing short of spectacular in his knowledge of the ITU world and his willingness to work with my coaches to determine the best schedule for the federation and more importantly, for me as an athlete, Nour said.
“I am excited to work with the federation and be part of the building stages of what certainly will become a world-class exemplary federation, he added.
Nour is now “training harder and smarter than he has ever trained before with two to four workouts a day and an average of 30 to 40 hours a week. He says his biggest supporter is his brother, Diaa; adding that he takes inspiration from his family.
“Before every race, Diaa used to prepare a 20-page document outlining the race course, the competitors to watch [out for] and the expectations he had of me. During the race, he usually has a pen and paper and is frantically trying to keep track of how I am doing, Nour says, “every time I pass him, he shouts out how far behind or ahead I am and what I need to do, he does this so loudly that he has made small children cry at races.
Nour’s team of coaches is led by Tim Crowley, USAT’s developmental coach of the year, and Eric Sorensen, Washington DC’s premier triathlon coach. His sponsors include CycleLife, Dartfish, Embassy of the UAE in Washington, D.C., Fuji, and Washington Sport and Event Management. He is now working on adding Egyptian sponsors to the list.
Nour sees potential in Egyptian players to become world champions, namely Mohamed Tonsy, Mohammed El-Saied and Omnia Fakhry; however, setting up a solid infrastructure and interesting programs to entice and introduce the sport to Egypt’s youth will be the key to success.
Nour is now looking forward to the 2010 season, his first inaugural ITU season under the Egyptian flag as a major step towards his goal as he will try to face the challenge of adjusting to traveling and racing internationally.
“Reaching the Olympics is not an individual effort; it takes an all-star team and that’s what I would like to think I have, he said.
“I am very excited to be on this journey; I enjoy the process even more than the destination, and every day is an adventure bringing new and unforeseen opportunities and I love to share my experience with people and enjoy the feedback that I get, Nour said.
For Omar Nour’s latest news visit www.omarnour.com or www.facebook.com/omarnourtriathlon or follow him on twitter @omarnour.