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An Iranian Makes History in Triathlon Sport

Publisher's Note

There is always a first in any sport and for any nation. Arsalan Navidi is one of those firsts. He is an Iranian Triathlon athlete in the United States and he represents Iran in Triathlon tournaments.

I spoke to Arsalan and found out his passion for triathlon was as puritan as that of mine for football. But the more he talked about his sport, the more I realized how easy and cool my football game must have been. Triathlon is about strength and perseverance. It is about human persistence to finish the event. It is a true marathon in its own class.

In this informative interview we will find out about the sport of Triathlon; how this history maker got hooked to it; and what his goals and dreams are. I can tell you none of it is for fame or money. This is not NBA or NFL or European soccer. This is about the human will to set a personal record. This is about an ambassador answering the call to represent his nation in the international events in a positive way.

Arsalan Navidi can be contacted at his e-mail address anavidi@navidi.com, or his homepage address at http://www.navidi.com.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am Arsalan Navidi, better known to my friends, family and colleagues as "Al." I was born in Tehran, Iran in 1959 to a Petroleum Engineer father, a manager at the National Iranian Oil Company and a home-maker mother. After finishing my secondary education at Tehran's Razi High School in 1977, I came to the United States to continue my education at the university level in Washington, DC. After receiving my bachelor's degree in Chemistry from The American University in 1982, I completed a degree in Chemical Engineering in 1985 at the Catholic University of America, also located in Washington, DC.

Upon graduation, I began a career in the field of Environmental Engineering, specialized in the cleanup and management of hazardous waste sites, and successfully continued working in this field for various DC area companies. In 1995, I switched the direction of my career by gaining entry into the field of information management, specifically software and database development. I am currently employed by ANSER Corporation in Arlington, Virginia, where I successfully manage several database development projects for the Department of Defense.

Arsalan Navidi in his Triathlon Attire
In the Spring of 1992, I met my future wife Gretchen at the well-known annual "Virginia Gold Cup," a steeplechase horse race in rural Virginia. Gretchen, a native of Annapolis, Maryland and a successful professional in the field of Human Resources Management, and I married in August of 1993 and remain happily married living in Bethesda, Maryland.

I have an older sister and a younger brother, both of whom also reside and work in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area. My parents frequently travel between Iran and the United States. My wife and I are currently interested in relocating from Bethesda to the Los Angeles Metropolitan area and are actively seeking employment in our respective fields.

Tell us about your athletic activities

I was not very athletic as a teen, but I started exercising in my mid-twenties. Exercise played a very important part in the latter part of my life until in 1990 when I got involved with running and bicycling. I soon fell in love with the sport of Biathlon, most recently known as "Duathlon." This sport consists of a run segment, followed by a bike race, and followed again by another run segment (run-bike-run), all in the same event.

After successfully completing several duathlons, as well as several other running races that included four marathons (2 New York and 2 Marine Corps), because of my competitiveness and my desire to look for new challenges, I began competing in "Triathlons." Triathlons are very similar to Duathlons, with the only difference that the first run segment is replaced by a swim segment (swim-bike-run).

Can you tell us what the Triathlon sport is all about?

Triathlon has become very popular throughout the world within the past ten years, especially in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Germany. This race, as previously mentioned, is comprised of three separate segments, known as "legs," which is generally one of three general distances.

The first distance, which is the most popular and the most common, is known as "International" or "Olympic" Distance - the names are used interchangeably. This race consists of a 1,500-Meter (0.9 mile) swim, followed by a 26-mile bike leg, which, in turn, is followed by a 10-Kilometer (6.2 miles) run. Every race can, and usually is, performed on a course totally different from other courses. Some courses, usually regular paved streets or public park roads, are very flat and fast (e.g., the Fairmont Park course in Philadelphia). Others are extremely hilly and tough (e.g., the Columbia, Maryland championship course, or the Lancaster, Pennsylvania course).

The time an athlete is able to complete a race is obviously dependant on the quality of the course, as well as his or her performance on the day of the race. Elite or professional male athletes normally complete an average Olympic Distance course in approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes. The slowest athletes usually finish in less than three and a half hours.

When did you start Triathlon and have you represented Iran in any tournament?

Since 1990, I have been competing in approximately six to eight triathlons per season in several Mid-Atlantic States, along with over a dozen non-triathlon races (running races and marathons) per year. The triathlon season in the Mid-Atlantic Region (New York to South Carolina) normally lasts from May to October. I have been concentrating on improving my personal best performance at all races.

Finish Line in ITU 1996, Cleveland, Ohio
In August 1996, I participated in the annual ITU Championship race held in Cleveland, Ohio. Approximately 2,500 athletes representing 70 countries competed in this race in over 15 different age groups. I placed 705th overall and 57th in my age group (35-39 category). Iran's name was mentioned in this event as a participating nation. I plan to attend the 1997 ITU Championship race to be held in Perth, Australia and represent Iran one more time.

Share with us your most memorable event in the tournaments

I have competed in dozens of races in several states, in which anywhere from 150 to 2,500 athletes participated. While each race holds special memories for me, two races in particular affected me in such a way that they will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The first memory is of my very first race ever in 1990. During this race, I (then 31 years old) finished behind a 61-year old female competitor! I took this so hard that I started training much more heavily. A few weeks later during the very next race, my second, I managed to finish several minutes before that same 61-year old woman who just happened to be competing in the race as well.

My second memory is of the ITU Championship race in Cleveland, Ohio last August. It was the first time I represented my native country in an international event. It felt just like the Olympics, or having never participated in one myself, I imagined how the Olympic makes an athlete feel.

A group picture with triathletes
This event included a "Parade of Nations" ceremony on the first day of the festivities, during which athletes from participating countries, all dressed in coordinating outfits representing their nations' colors, paraded in alphabetical order by country to the cheers of spectators and other athletes. When the announcer stated "... The next country is Iran..." I got chills all over my body, a feeling I had not had as long as I could remember.

This overwhelming feeling, along with the cheers of spectators and other athletes when the announcer mentioned the name "Iran," brought tears to my eyes, especially considering the overall turmoil our dear country has been through for the past few years. Here, I was representing a nation that has survived some 2,500 years of hardship. Hopefully, this feeling will be revived next year at the ITU World Championship race in Perth, Australia.

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