USA Triathlon was pleased to welcome Ahmed Nasser, African Triathlon Union President, to its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on July 31 for the official signing of the cooperation agreement between the two federations.
The relationship was formed with a mission of growing and supporting triathlon in developing countries throughout the world. We sat down with Nasser, USA Triathlon President Barry Siff and One World Running Founder Mike Sandrock to hear about what’s going on in Africa, the goals of the program and more.
USA Triathlon: Welcome, Ahmed. Tell us about the state of triathlon in Africa.
Ahmed Nasser: There were around nine countries [in the African Triathlon Union] at the time that I got the presidency. We’re lucky enough now, in three years’ time, to have 42 countries. So that’s the beginning of the development. My executive board is working very hard to geographically cover the five zones, and we have almost 70 percent of all African members. We had a goal to have 54 countries doing triathlon before the end of 2016, and we are achieving the small goals leading to the big one in 2016.
USAT: What are some of the main developments since your presidency began in 2012?
AN: I’m very proud to have had the ITU World Triathlon Series, which took place in Cape Town, South Africa. I’m very proud also to have some of the South African athletes in the top. Some of the developing countries are also on the way. For the first time in the All-Africa Games for youth, we had triathlon. There were 12 countries taking part, which was a good beginning.
Egypt has donated a big place to the International Triathlon Union to have the training center for the Middle East, Africa and Mediterranean, thanks to the government of Egypt. It’s in the Cairo International Stadium. It is very attractive because it is in the complex of the swimming pool, surrounded by a biking area for technical biking. There’s a gymnasium, a sports medical department, and it also accommodates the headquarters of the African Triathlon.
USAT: How will this agreement help promote and develop the advancement of the sport in Africa?
AN: It is very important. This is going to be a great support to African development. I would like to thank USA Triathlon and my dear friend Barry Siff, for all his efforts and also of course, I would like to thank Mike for his initiative with Barry, and a big thanks to my dear champion Dragomir Cioroslan of the U.S. Olympic Committee for his great support.
USAT: Barry, can you tell us about the efforts USA Triathlon will be leading as part of this initiative?
Barry Siff: The first aspect will be the collection of clothes, apparel, shoes and other triathlon gear in Chicago at the Grand Final. Going even beyond collecting our goal of 1,000 pounds of goods for the African nations, it’s also spreading the word and support for the development of triathlon throughout the world. Like Africa, there are countries in South America, Central America, Asia, where nations need help. They need equipment, coaching assistance and technical information — and we have that. We have programs that we can transport very easily to the African nations, and that’s what we’re really looking forward to doing.
This is just the first step in our efforts to help spread the development of triathlon, not only in the African nations, but throughout the world.
USAT: This program is being modeled off of One World Running, founded by Mike Sandrock. Mike, can you tell us about the origins of One World Running?
Mike Sandrock: It’s a great partnership. It started 29 years ago; I was a 2:24:30 marathoner. I got sent by the U.S. government to run a marathon in Cameroon. Frank Shorter, the gold medalist, had given me shoes. Well, I ran the race and the guy who beat me in the race was wearing plastic sandals. His foot was cut and all bloody. I followed him into the stadium and he was waiting for me at the end. I was used to competing and being aggressive, and here’s a guy who was waiting for me to finish in the hot sun. I almost started crying because he waited that long; I was so touched. And that showed the friendship we all had. That’s how it all started. I gave him my pair of shoes, same size — now we’ve done more than 100,000 pairs.
The African Triathlon Union, USA Triathlon and One World Running have joined together to support the development of triathlon in Africa. One World Running will have a booth at the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final expo to collect gently used clothing, shoes and triathlon gear.