With 13 wins under her belt at just 13 years old, Pauline ‘race machine’ De Groof is a young force to be reckoned with in triathlons across the UAE. We sit down with the teen to talk about her involvement in the sport, her best piece of advice and why kids should get up and move
What made you want to start training to become a triathlete?
I started running with my mum as a hobby, just for fun and to do some exercise. I realised I really wanted to get better and started training more often. I joined my school’s (Raha International School) triathlon team and started cycling at Yas Marina Circuit.
The first races I did were the Aloft Runs for Children and one of the AbuDhabi Junior Aquathlons at Al Bateen Beach. I really enjoyed the racing itself, but also being there with some friends who also do triathlon.
Each race I did made me more motivated to become better and keep going. In September last year I joined the Yas Cycles Triathlon Team as the ‘juniors’ which took triathlon so much further for me, because I got a lot of guidance as to how I should be training and eating.
What has been the best piece of advice you have received so far?
In terms of racing I was told that in order to win, I have to want it more than my competitors. My coach Mike has also told me to make training fun so I don’t get bored by doing it with others and chasing each other – everything is a game. Also, most importantly, I have to eat my veggies!
Being an athlete in races all over the UAE, you must see a lot of beautiful scenery. Do you have a favourite spot in Abu Dhabi to run, bike or swim?
There have definitely been some beautiful race venues such as the annual Abu Dhabi Striders 10k and half marathon in November, which starts at Yas Waterworld and runs around Yas Island. The 5 Star Aquathlon series at Emirates Palace is also beautiful with the palace in the background. My favourite spot for cycling is definitely Yas Marina Circuit because I almost feel like a real Formula 1 driver when I’m there.
A lot of children in the UAE are obese or have diabetes, a worrying sign. Do you think that getting into sport when you are young is important?
I think it’s very important for children to get into sport because nowadays it is easy to just be on the couch, on a device the whole day eating junk. Then it’s easy to become obese or diabetic, which has major health consequences.
I advise children who want to take up sport but don’t know how, to start by doing the Abu Dhabi Junior Aquathlons at Al Bateen Beach as there are many categories catering for all abilities. For those that want to start running, I advise [using] a programme called Start to Run, which gives you a free training plan starting from nothing to being able to run five kilometres.
To follow Pauline’s triathlon progress, visit: instagram.com/tri.pauline