Hijabi Triathletes Share Their Thoughts on Trisuits at the Doha Triathlon
By Amina Ahmadi   ·    January 30, 2017    ·    Community, Fashion

For hijabi athletes, some sports have traditionally been off-limits due to wardrobe constraints. We’re on a mission to fix that. At the Doha Triathlon, we spoke with hijabi triathletes about their apparel needs and the future of modest trisuits.

Setting the Scene at the Doha Triathlon

It’s 5:00am. MIA Park is still quite dark with a beautiful dawn breeze softening the atmosphere. The Oola team and I are setting up our booth to start receiving participants and visitors at the first-even Doha Triathlon, with a lot of excitement for what’s about to happen in the next few hours.

Athletes start walking into the park, individuals, in teams, or with their families and friends. This inaugural event for the Doha Triathlon is beginning to take shape, offering competitors the option of either a full Olympic Triathlon distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run) or a Sprint Triathlon distance (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run). By the end of the day, nearly 400 participants from countries including Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain would make their mark in history as the first to swim, bike and run in the Doha Triathlon.

For those counting, the stats were: 28 total Sprint teams and 31 total Olympic teams, with six of the overall teams being Qatari. For individual races, there were 19 Olympic female (compared with 97 Olympic male) and 15 Sprint female (compared with 92 Sprint male) participants. Out of all of the individual participants, one was a Qatari woman and 24 were Qatari men.

Oola’s Goal: Designing a Modest Triathlon Suit

As part of our community outreach, and to better understand the opportunities that are out there for women participation in sports, we were very keen to be present at the Doha Triathlon; support and encourage athletes (in particular women); observe athletes and their needs; and identify ways to a mission impossible: Creating a modest Trisuit!

The challenge of a triathlon is so intense with very specific attire needs in order to perform and more importantly feel comfortable and empowered. For a hijabi, a covered woman, or a woman who prefers loose-fit sportswear, finding their needs in a Trisuit is almost impossible. Nevertheless, we were thrilled and so inspired to meet some hijabi triathletes at the Doha Triathlon!

In this post, we’re interviewing two courageous ladies and sharing some of their insights about being hijabi triathletes.

Doaa Awad Doha Triathlon

Doaa Awad

Mechanical Engineering student at Texas A&M University at Qatar (May 2017)

We’ve known Doaa for quite some time; we heard her shout out to the sportswear experts on social media asking for help in designing a modest Trisuit. We immediately answered her call, as we believe there should be no obstacle to hijabi ladies to take part in any sport they’re passionate about. She completed a Sprint Triathlon as an individual.

Doaa learned how to swim at the age of 5. Her passion for swimming grew with her with a dream of becoming an Olympic Swimmer. Despite the fact the she does not come from an athletic family, she had high aspirations and ambitions for a career in swimming. Nevertheless, little did she know then about how to train for Olympics which hindered a timely development for such a career. Her drive did not end at that – while observing her “swimming idol” Osama Mellouli completing his first triathlon, she was determined herself to become an established triathlete.

She shares some reflections about the most exciting part of the Doha Triathlon:

“The feeling after crossing the finish line is indescribable; it is definitely the most exciting part, and it is what keeps you going during the race. Even if the race didn’t turn out as I wanted it to be or if I didn’t achieve the time that I wanted, after reflecting, it always feels good that I have completed the race. When I look back, a couple of months ago, I would have never imagined to do what I am doing now. Triathlon has shown me how much strength I have, it has proven that hard work indeed pays off.”

It is certainly not easy for triathletes to perfect all three sports, and it sure takes a lot of training to overcome a triathlete’s weakest one. Doaa excels in swimming, but finds running to be the challenging part of the race. Doaa also shares two more challenges she experience: transitions, and the heat! During transitions she always loses time while changing clothes. She starts the swim wearing a dress over her full body swimsuit. Following the swim, she changes the dress to a pair of basketball shorts and a jersey. She feels that with the heat, she also slows down during the swim and the run.

Current available trisuits do offer a full body option; nevertheless, something still needs to be worn on top of such a suit since they’re quite tight, Doaa explains. The dress she now wears on stop of her full body suit absorbs a lot of water, and hence slows her down during the swim. She wishes for a something similar but made out of the right fabric. Something lighter, and does not absorb a lot of water, too. If such an add-on piece is light enough, it can even be kept while cycling and running after the swim, and that save some time during transitions. Doaa continued with great determination saying:

“These obstacles shouldn’t stop any hijabi from doing what she loves. All these problems have potential solutions, all one has to do is train and show potential because when the solution is presented, the athlete has to be ready to shine. I believe that participation in sports is my right, no matter how I chose to dress.”

She then ends, clarifying that all the above challenges will make her grow as an individual. Doaa’s passion is very visible and infectious; she participates in such races because of her love to the sport, and her wish to inspire others – a reminder that they could make it to the Olympics one day!

Maszleen Ramli Doha Triathlon

Maszleen Ramli

RasGas Executive

Maszleen was the runner of a Relay team, doing the Olympic distance at the Doha Triathlon. Maszleen was motivated by her husband to start taking part in Triathlon races. Her husband became a triathlete two years back, he had come a long way in swimming starting as someone who didn’t even swim, and then finishing two Ironman races. “I have always wanted to be comfortable swimming in water,” Maszleen told us. To combat her struggles, she found a strong drive in training for Triathlons. “Triathlon seems to motivate me to keep learning and improving,” Maszleen added. Her first race was the GMC Triseries beginner category, after which she gained more confidence to keep going.

The most exciting part of a Triathlon race to Maszleen is: “To be with all the inspiring triathletes, with all kinds of abilities. No one ever gives up”. While the most challenging part to her in this particular race was the sun! “The sun was up when I started running, so it was quite challenging to maintain my motivation to keep running,” she says.

Maszleen ends by emphasizing:

“More hijabis are now active and would like to participate in triathlon sports, but are mostly discouraged when it comes to finding suitable sportswear.”

To her, most trisuits available in the market are unsuitable for hijabis since they mostly consist of shorts, or feature a very tight fit. She suggests that a trisuit suitable for hijabis could consist of an additional thin layer that a triathlete can put on after the swim to offer comfort while not impeding on performance at the same time.

Next Steps: Let’s Build a Team and Design a Trisuit!

With the wonderful views towards Doha’s West Bay as a backdrop, winners in all categories were announced at the end, and were all cheered by an enthusiastic audience of visitors and competitors. We proudly handed some Oola garments to all female winners.

With the stunning views of MIA park, and the energetic atmosphere we experienced throughout the day, we ended the day determined to build a team to participate as an Oola team next year! Join us and start training from now on, so we can to take part in this exciting event.

Finally, if you have further views on a modest Trisuit, we’ll be more than happy to hear from you! Reach out to info@oolasports.com or leave a comment below!

Photos from the Doha Triathlon