by Dr Dina Al Tayeb
  • 3 minute read
  • April 26, 2023
Exclusive: The First Saudi Triathlete Dr Dina Al Tayeb Tells Her Story In Her Own Words

I was always inclined towards outdoor sports. I rode horses, played tennis, and ran a few short races, but didn’t start my triathlon endurance journey till later in life. I was introduced to this multisport format when I went to pursue my postgraduate dental studies at Tufts University in Boston, USA in 2002. I participated in my first-ever triathlon the same year and knew little about the sport at the time, but I love a good challenge.

A triathlon involves a combination of three disciplines— swimming, cycling and running. I started partaking in shorter races for a few years until 2005 in Canada when I was ready for an Ironman Triathlon, which is organised by the World Triathlon Corporation.

It’s one of the hardest long-distance endurance races that puts one’s physical and mental capacities to the test. It comprises a 3.9-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bicycle ride, and 42-kilo- metre marathon run—all of which need to be completed in succession within a 17-hour time limit. I finished the race, becoming the first Saudi citizen to accomplish the feat. I felt so inspired and charged up that I enlisted myself for the next one, so I could learn from my mistakes and improve my performance.

Since then, I’ve participated in 18 full and 45 half Ironman events and over 100 races in the last 20 years. After completing a few Ironman races, my aim was to be a part of the champion- ship in Hawaii, which is among the most challenging, for which only 2,500 athletes from across the world qualify.

I realised my dream as I became the first Arab woman and Saudi national to qualify for and complete the Ironman World Championship 2018 and 2019 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and the first Saudi to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship from 2017 to 2019, and in 2021. I was presented with the ‘Athlete of the Year’ award in the Ironman XC division every year from 2017 to 2019, and 2021 to 2022. I’m also a board member of the Saudi Triathlon Federation.

Image Courtesy of Dr. Dina Al Tayeb

Ironman isn’t just a race—it’s a test of character and all about achieving the impossible. It takes me nine months to get ready for it, often requiring countless hours of rigorous physical and mental training to be prepared for the start line.

From finding the right coach to seeking training and the facilities to compete at a professional level, I’ve faced many hurdles on the road to becoming a triathlete, but I didn’t give up. Having a dream that one aspires to achieve is a sign of personal growth, and I’m now relishing the fruit of my hard work.

Proving my mettle as an Ironman triathlete was a turning point in my life. It made me realise the strength of my mind over all else. Pushing myself to achieve the unthinkable has set the bar high for me—if I can do this, I can accomplish anything I want in life. All it takes is hard work, good ethics, a positive attitude, and God’s Blessings.

Other than being a triathlete, I’m a practicing dentist and the co-owner of Dentalia Dental Clinics in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which is where I work as a full-time periodontist.
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Dental Medicine and Surgery from the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, and pursued my Master of Science at Tufts University, where I’m now a trustee and on the Board of Advisors for the School of Dental Medicine. I’m a mother of three children, who’ve supported me throughout my journey.

Today, there are so many opportunities for girls to excel in a spectrum of fields, including athletics. The possibilities are endless, given the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative and tremen- dous support from the government. I’m certain that, over the next few years, we’ll see spectacular Saudi women breaking barriers and achieving greatness in the sports world.

Follow @Dina.altayeb on Instagram.

This article was originally published in Villa 88’s Spring 2023 edition. Subscribe here.

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