Our trailblazer - Najla Al Jeraiwi
Interview with Najla Al Jeraiwi
'I am absolutely passionate about entry level triathletes and even kids, spreading my love for the sport and making it accessible to those who would ‘just like to give it a go’'
As we enter into our peak triathlon season, we wanted to do a little bit of a team member spotlight on our very own Triathlon Coach ~ Najla Al Jeraiwi. For anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Najla with her small stature, slight frame and softly spoken ways, you might be surprised to discover the exceptional power and endurance she commands as one of Kuwait’s most significant, trailblazing female athletes today. Despite her unbelievable achievements, Najla is not one to demand the limelight and so here we present a very rare and unique opportunity to learn more about her training, motivations, how it all started and most importantly her vision for the future.
For those of you not familiar with Najla’s sporting accomplishments to date, let us give you the headlines. Described as a ‘force of nature’ in a 2016 Washington Post close up on female athletes in the Middle East, Najla is a world-renowned competitor having completed 35 triathlons in total – she was also amongst the first entrants representing Kuwait at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea; one key defining feature being that she competes in a custom-made hijab. A choice that has attracted large amounts of interest and curiosity globally. Naturally when in Kuwait and particularly within her current training home here at Al Corniche, we are not concerned with her training attire but more simply impressed with her continued successes. Most recently, Najla came 15th out of 23 at the Asian Games Jakarta Palembang despite extreme heat and humidity. Najla’s success was perhaps born out of her attendance and gruelling training at high performance camps in both Spain and Greece over the summer. Earlier in the year, Najla took the Gold medal at the 2018 ATU Triathlon and Pan Arab Championship in the Women’s Olympic Distance race, an event in which she was both competitor and a certified ITU technical official for the elite categories. Bottom line, Najla is a highly impressive athlete by any standard.
So where did it all begin. It would be easy to assume that Najla has been swimming and cycling since she could walk but that is not the case. In fact, it was an unfortunate back injury after a 9-year career as a professional equestrian show jumper, another impressive feat, that led Najla to explore other sporting interests. The common thread is not the specific athletic discipline but her ambition and dedication to succeed. When horse riding was no longer an option, Najla alongside her sisters explored other means of fitness and they stumbled across a small triathlon club in Kuwait. It wasn’t long before she was, in her words “hooked”. Not being one to dip a toe, Najla entered herself into a sprint distance triathlon in Abu Dhabi in 2011 and five months later she completed her first half IRONMAN. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. With a lack of knowledge, an unstructured training plan and little to no specific guided nutrition, by Najla’s own admission she “made a mistake by not focusing on recovery and diet” – Ultimately, this mistake led to the injury of her IT band and six months out of training; she decided to hire a coach and it is at this point in the story we welcome Vincent Beltran.
Vincent is an experienced and highly sought-after triathlon coach and successful triathlete in his own right. Vincent was in fact Najla’s predecessor as head of the Al Corniche Triathlon Club before he moved on to coach the international team in Bahrain. In Najla’s eyes, this is where it all changed for her and things got serious, here is what she said:
“…having a coach made the world of difference. To have someone skilled and experienced build structure around my training, monitoring my performance, personalise my drills, keep me injury free and most importantly free from fatigue is what really changed my training and my performance”
It’s also key to note that with the help of Vincent, together they made some bespoke modifications to Najla’s swimming garments that shaved 14 seconds of her 100-metre time - it was to be a partnership that would set the foundation for her triathlon career and continues today honing different aspects of her training and performance.
When asked what Najla hopes for the future her answer is simple – “I am absolutely passionate about entry level triathletes and even kids, spreading my love for the sport and making it accessible to those who would ‘just like to give it a go’”
For those of you interested or thinking about trying something different, we have our next event coming up;
our Aquathlon Sprint on 3rd November 2018.
Al Corniche Club welcomes all sport enthusiasts, swimmers, runners and athletes to Al Corniche Aquathlon Race. It is a family friendly event open for members and non-members. Racers have the option to participate individually or in a relay team of two. The course is traffic friendly, providing the greatest degree of safety for all competitors. More details on registration to follow.
3K Run | 750m Swim | 3K Run
Water stations on course and at the finish line
Medical support and water safety team
Electronic chip timing
Prizes awarded to the winner of each age-group