The JLL Roy Nasr Memorial Triathlon salutes the local athlete who was killed while cycling last year and brings the city’s sporting community together. Benita Adesuyan finds out more about the man and his legacy.
Former Arab triathlon champion Roy Nasr was killed by a drunk driver in 2013, as he did his early morning bike ride with two fellow cyclists near Safa Park. The day after the tragic event the cycling community gathered on Al Qudra cycle track to ride and remember their friend and inspired triathlete. Now, the Roy Nasr Memorial Triathlon has become an annual event for the whole sporting community.
Roy was founder of TriDubai triathlon club and Paul Venn, Race Director of Race ME Events, had been a friend of Roy and his family for over 20 years. Part of the memorial event’s organising team, he explains it is much more than a tribute. ‘This was Roy’s dream – to put races on in Dubai. Roy loved life. He loved cycling and triathlon, and that’s why he set up TriDubai and Race ME events. It was to give himself and others an opportunity to race, and give other people the opportunity to do a sport that he loved so much.’
The first memorial race saw more than 300 triathletes of various abilities take part, and this year’s event has already seen 350 individuals sign up, alongside 30 teams of two. The slots for the competition have all been filled but the spectators will also be in for a great day out. Paul describes the event as being a lot like the man in whose honour they race. ‘Roy was always smiling and that kind of sums up the event on the day. It’s a great venue, the finish line is 30 metres from the swim start line, spectators sitting on a grass bank so they can see the finish line – it’s a fantastic atmosphere. The winners hang around and cheer on the guys that come in last. It’s a good community vibe, it’s not all about finishing first. If you come along on race day you’ll see my kids helping out on the drinks stand – it’s very much a family day out.’
Venn speaks warmly of Roy, describing him as someone who ‘never had a bad word to say about anyone’. ‘I knew Roy for 22 years, he was part of the company that brought me out to Dubai in the early ’90s, and it wasn’t until after he was killed that I thought to myself – I never saw Roy angry. It’s very easy when someone has passed away to have these eulogies and say these things about people who are special, but that’s honestly how he was.’ Roy was well known in international triathlon circles and had a reputation for being willing to help new triathletes out. ‘He didn’t tell people he did it – he’d just do it,’ recalls Venn. ‘He even stopped to help someone fix a tyre and lost the race as a consequence – but that was Roy, he’d help if you needed help.’
Nasr’s life may have been cut short but the Dubai-based athlete has left a mark on the athletics and triathlon community. TriDubai agreed, with his wife Tina, to host a race that would keep his name going. There is also a triathlon in Beirut that Roy frequently participated in and won – as a tribute the organisers have retired his running number, 1, and have a trophy in his honour for the highest Lebanese finisher.
Triathlon’s popularity is growing in Dubai, as the sport combines three popular sports in their own right, and TriDubai’s membership has grown exponentially to over 2,000 members. In addition, the facilities for athletes are safer with more dedicated tracks for cyclists to safely pedal. Venn feels that the cycling provisions in Dubai help to make all road users more aware of cyclists and keep the roads safe. ‘I think the authorities are doing a fantastic job in terms of athlete safety and cyclist safety. Where else in the world has a government just created a purpose-built cycle track and are continuing to add to it? Roy was incredibly unlucky, but it doesn’t alter the fact that a bike on the road is never going to be as safe as a car on the road, and any initiative that gets bikes off the road and make drivers more conscious of cyclists is a positive one.’
JLL Roy Nasr Memorial Triathlon 2014. From Dhs250 per person, free for spectators. Saturday October 18. 6am. JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort, Jebel Ali. www.race-me-events.com
More forthcoming triathlon events
2XU Triathlon Championships
Held at Mamzar this tri has three distances and entrants can participate in teams. All entrants are also entered in to a prize draw and could win a trip to France.
From Dhs200. Friday October 24. Al Mamzar Beach, www.supersportsdubai.com (050 657 5021).
Dubai International Triathlon
This event will be the first half iron distance triathlon to be held in the UAE. Featuring a 1.9km swim followed by 90km bike and a 21.1km run.
Dhs850 per person. Friday November 7. Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, www.dubai-tri.com (04 369 3740).
Part of the Jones Lang LaSalle series, this triathlon includes a run through the grounds of the resort.
From Dhs225. Saturday December 13. JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort, Jebel Ali, www.premieronline.com
(04 369 3743).