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Photo Credit: Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches

Name: Mohamad Alsabbagh
Hometown: Damascus
Country: Syria
Age: 27
Sport: Triathlon

Years in the sport:
I’ve been swimming since I was 5 years old. I’ve been doing triathlons for 12 years.

How did you get started in triathlon?
I used to do long distance swimming and got a bit bored of swimming back and forth in the pool 60 km per week. I tried a triathlon one weekend for fun, and I was hooked.

Goals for this year?
I’d like to improve my ITU ranking. In order to qualify for the Olympics in Triathlon, you need to be in the top 180 in the world on the ITU list. To get points to improve my ranking, I’ll have to race more and also place well in the races.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
After the 2020 Olympics, I plan to settle down, focus on building my career and spending time with my family. If I am still hungry for high-level racing at that time, I might train and race in half-ironman triathlons.

Favourite athlete?
Muhammad Ali

What has been your biggest challenge as an athlete and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been shifting my mindset and feelings from thinking about the war in Syria to thinking about and focusing on every single task during my day. This is still something I find challenging, but I have largely overcome this by talking and seeking support from friends, reading books, praying, and practising how to relax and breathe deeply.

The best advice that you have been given?
Think about the moment and stay in the present.

If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?
I love sports and working with people, so even if I wasn’t an athlete I would probably still be coaching.

Any hobbies?
Drinking coffee with friends, reading books, and watching movies.

Favourite music?
Till I collapse-Eminem

Favourite book?
Peak performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

What does a typical day of training look like?
Depending on the day, I might do a 3-4 km swimming workout, and then a bike or run interval session. At least once per week, I will do all 3 activities of the triathlon, but most days my training focuses on two.

Anything people be surprised to learn about you?
People might be surprised to know that most of my family is still living in Syria and that although I struggle financially myself, I do my best to send them what I can to help support them. I pay for my mom’s gym membership and my younger sister’s schooling.

What is the funniest thing has happened to you/others while training?
What I always find funny is travelling to various different countries, meeting athletes who speak different languages (not English), and trying communicate with each other using body language.

Any pre-competition rituals?
I wake up 3 hours before the race (if it’s a morning race), do my prayer and eat pancakes (preferably made by my fiancée). I make sure I tell my parents to pray for me too.

Best movie and tv series?
Rocky is my favourite but I also enjoy watching 3D action movies. For TV series, I like to watch Japanese cartoons with my brother.

Favourite food while training?
Steak and sweet potato

Results you’re most proud of?
My best performance I would say was my 3rd place finish at the Asian cup in Kazakhstan in 2007. Recently, I was proud of my performance at the Canadian championships in 2016.

What inspires you?
My inspiration works like a positive feedback loop. I am driven to inspire others through hard work and dedication, and it inspires and motivates me more when I see other people working hard and moving towards their goals.

Do you have a saying or motto you live by?
Don’t give up

What do you enjoy most about racing?
I really enjoy lining up with a variety of people who come from different backgrounds and experiences. I love how sport can bring people together like this. Of course, I also love the competition and the feeling of racing side by side with others, and hopefully ending up in front of them!

Advise that you have for someone starting out in triathlon?
I’d advise them to start slowly and have fun! Beginner athletes and athletes of all levels benefit from having a coach to guide them with an appropriate training plan. I’d also recommend trying to find a group or friends so you have people to train with.

What is the most crucial part of your training?
Right now, building my strength in biking is the most crucial. I’m a strong swimmer and can usually come out of the water in a good position. However, I often struggle during the first portion of the bike, when the leaders put out a lot of power and speed to try to get ahead and make others drop from the lead pack.

Anyone you would like to thank?
My family, my fiancée Jullien, my coaches Kyla and Javier, my families in Canada who have taken me as their own, and my friends.

Social Media links:
Facebook: Mohamad Alsabbagh triathlete
Twitter: @mo2tokyo
Instagram: @mo2tokyo 

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