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After an 18-year triathlon career, including six Ironman titles and the 2005 Kona crown, German Faris Al-Sultan decided to retire after dropping out of Ironman Texas on Saturday, as he told Ironman Hall of Famer Bob Babbitt in an interview on Sunday. The veteran pro, known for wearing a Speedo-style kit in races, was in the Kona top 10 nine times in his career and has become a triathlon fan favorite.
The decision came unexpectedly in Texas—during the 112-mile bike in Texas, Al-Sultan started having pain in his glutes and hamstrings, and decided that he didn’t want to continue with the marathon, so he dropped out in T2. He’d been struggling with niggles and injuries the last few years with moderate race results, and said that he had been “struggling more with the injuries than actually training,” he told Babbitt. “The most important thing is your brain—if you’re mentally no longer there to really be there 100 percent, then it’s hard. Yesterday I realized that, ‘OK, I’ve had so many bad races, and I can’t stand having one more bad race.’”
Al-Sultan now has more taking him away from training, such as being the father of a 1-year-old and spending more time recovering from injuries. At this point in his career, “every little thing becomes an obstacle, and you’re only willing to jump over so many hurdles, and then you’re not anymore,” he said.
He plans to complete a few more short-distance races this summer, and will discuss with race organizers and sponsors how to complete his commitments to them. So far, he’s not sure what’s next for him. “The easiest thing is to go into coaching … but on the other hand, I’d like to look for a new challenge maybe in a completely different field, just to prove to myself that I can succeed somewhere else other than triathlon, but there is no particular plan at the moment,” he says.
But he’s proud of the success he’s had in triathlon since he started racing in 1997: “I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished.”
Listen to the complete Babbittville Radio interview here.