Meet Anwar Jawhar, the 28-year-old Kuwaiti triathlete who’s set a new record for Kuwait and the region, by heading to Las Vegas this September to compete at the World Championships. Over the last three years, this inspirational athlete took on triathlons throughout the GCC, and all of his consistent dedication to training paid off recently when he participated in the 2013 Ironman 70.3 race that took place on the 4th of August in Cebu, in the Philippines. Imagine this challenge: a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike ride followed directly by a 21.1km run—continuously! As his 4th Ironman race, and determined to beat his previous race times, Anwar finished first in his age category, earning himself a well-deserved place in the world championships. bazaar interviews the local legend before he heads off to compete at the world championships, hoping to find out more about what it takes to make it in the competitive field of triathlon racing.
What motivated you to become a triathlete?
I have always been into sports growing up and always been open to anything that gives me an adrenaline rush or a challenge. That’s one of the main reasons I got into triathlon, it’s an amazing sport. One where you challenge yourself mentally and physically not just on race day, but day in and day out, during your training sessions. At first, it was really about seeing how far I can go with the sport – after all, training to perfect 3 individual sports (swimming, biking and running) is already a huge challenge – and then you have to put them altogether on race day and that’s when the real rush kicks in.
I think motivation is really important with anything in life, not just sports. I remember watching and hearing about the Ironman triathlon and how it’s labeled the “toughest one day event on the planet”. I was suddenly drawn to it even more. I know it sounds almost strange but I enjoy pushing myself to the limits every time my coach lets me in training and that has been my motivating factor that has allowed my passion for the sport to constantly grow and evolve.
Last October I decided that I wanted to take triathlon one step further and be more serious about my goals and what I can achieve for my country internationally at races. I had always been training and racing part-time before work and after work when I was a corporate banker. It wasn’t easy at all. Waking up at 4:30am heading to the pool to get a session done and then rushing off to work until 3:30pm and then end my day with an evening session. I got to a point where my race results were improving and I started to have a lot more confidence in what I could do to improve. It was then that I decided that I was going to leave my career as a corporate banker and take a huge risk in becoming a full time triathlete. This hasn’t happened before in the region and as much as people, friends and family, supported me, there were a few who kept me doubting myself. In Kuwait it is a huge risk as we lack professional sponsorship deals for many talented athletes. I decided to take the risk. I set off to a training camp in the Spanish Canary Islands early in 2013 and met up with my current coach. We trained and planned the year ahead and thanks to him along with the hard work I have got to where I am today.
You’ve taken on several triathlon races in the GCC. How did you prepare for that endeavor?
It’s always great fun racing in the GCC, the region is booming when it comes to triathlon races and I’ve met some really talented people around the region at races. Race preparation is always key to being successful in triathlon. You can train as hard as you want, day in day out and think that because of all the hard work you will do great come race day. That’s false. Race preparation is about training your mind, believing in what you can do and taking that mind set to the race on race day and telling yourself “this is my race”. It doesn’t matter if you aim to finish the race or be the race winner, you must have the right preparation mentally as well as physically. I also find that learning how to be positive throughout my training days helps in the long run. Race preparation takes experience and that comes from trial and error, trying things out in training, listening to your coach and listening to your body. You can read as many articles online or read as many books on triathlon races but if you go to a race with a bit of self doubt your race is over. Believe in yourself and you will achieve your race goals.
When you’re feeling discouraged, what do you normally think about to move forward?
This will happen. Fact. Feeling down or discouraged during the build up to a race or during training will happen to you no matter how good you are. It’s how you deal with it that counts. I start telling myself to look where I was this time last year. Look how far I’ve come, the improvements and the experience I’ve gained. It helps me a lot to talk to people closest to me as well and just get my mind of things and away from sports or triathlon for a few hours as well. My coach is probably one of the main driving factors behind me getting over any sort of discouragement I feel. A chat with him and I’m back on track refueled and ready to go at training 101% again.
You’ve participated in four Ironman 70.3 races. What was different about each time?
Ironman 70.3 is my favorite distance, it’s a distance I’m good at and enjoy the most in triathlon. So far I have done 4 Ironman 70.3 races, Phuket in 2010 and 2012, Aix En Provence, France 2011 and I just finished one in Cebu, Philippines. Each one of the Ironman 70.3 races I took part in was different because not every race has the same course when it comes to the swim, bike or the run. The terrains could vastly vary, as some were hilly on the bike, others the swim was in a lake or the ocean, some of the races the run was flat and some the run was hilly. This does make a huge difference obviously as each race proves to be uniquely challenging as a result. Also, the climate plays a huge role. The weather can be hot, humid, rainy, cold or windy. It’s such a long day out there racing when you do a triathlon and the natural conditions can play a huge role in how well you get through the day.
How does it feel to come out on top at Ironman 70.3, as the first from your age group, out of 160 participants?
This is the highlight of my triathlon career so far. I finished ahead of the person in 2nd place by 6 minutes. Out of 2500 participants I finished 28th. This is something that I worked so hard for, and being awarded with a slot in the upcoming 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas on the 8th of September is fantastic. I qualified as the first GCC national to ever do so and so that put Kuwait on the map in triathlon racing which makes me so proud of my achievement.
Tell us more about the upcoming world championships that will take place in Las Vegas. What’s going to be the hardest challenge about this race?
Since the last Ironman race, the timing allocated for training preparation is very limited. The course is challenging and all of the world’s best triathletes will be taking part as this is the world championship and you can only participate if you get a qualification slot through winning you age group in a previous Ironman 70.3 race. The World Championships take place every September at a different location around the world. To be able to go to Las Vegas and race to do my best as the first GCC national ever will be such a great honor for me. Also, getting a medal at the end of the race will be such an amazing thing. At the world championships there really isn’t any room for error, your racing with the best triathletes and this is where I will really be tested. It is such a great thing and even though it is very near, I still can’t wait to stand at the start line of the world championships!
Who has supported you throughout your journey?
It has been an amazing journey so far for me and it continues to do so. I still am growing and constantly looking for support from sponsors to let me show what I can achieve for myself, for them and for Kuwait. Most of all, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my family, friends and my coach. That’s for sure. Each one of them in their own way has always believed in me, supported me and stuck by my side when times get hard. I couldn’t be where I am in triathlon without those very special and important people. I am very grateful to have them supporting me and always will be.
What future do you see for Triathlon races in Kuwait?
The triathlon culture in Kuwait is growing massively! It’s evolving ever so fast every year. The local races in Kuwait and the turn out of triathletes who go to take part just proves how the sport is growing. We have some really great potential in both male and female categories in Kuwait and I wish that our sports federations and private companies looked to these triathletes as a way of supporting their inspiring achievements. The future of triathlon in Kuwait is heading in the right direction; we have had many triathletes compete in various races all over the world from Europe to North America to Asia. I hope to see so many more triathletes soon in Kuwait and you don’t have to be at a professional level to take part in triathlon. You set your goals and achieve them for yourself. It’s always the best thing ever when I see people taking up the sport I’m so passionate about.
Follow Anwar on Twitter @anwarjawhar and Instagram @anwarjawhartriathlete.