Olympian says Rio experience has persuaded him to push back retirement plans
When professional athletes hit the age of 30, it normally serves as a reminder, if one was needed, that the body clock is ticking and life after sport needs to be serious considered.
Lawrence Fanous was no exception. The British-based triathlete turned 31 while he was preparing to represent Jordan in Rio de Janeiro and was thinking about calling it a day in two years after the Asian Games.
But his Rio de Janeiro experience is twisting his arm.
Fanous made history as the first Jordanian triathlete to compete in an Olympics, and only the second Arab, and while he admits his race “wasn’t one of my best” as he finished 46th, he has already started to reconsider his next goals.
“Before Rio I was thinking about targeting a medal in the Asian Games in 2018 and then probably retire from international competition,” said Fanous, who is in Amman this week helping to plan the next phase of triathlon development for the Kingdom.
“I admit that I need to sit down and decide what’s next and I may still even retire on a high if I secure a medal there, but the whole Rio experience has made Tokyo more of an option now.
“I can only describe the Olympics as an incredible experience. I really want more of it and to have a better race next time as Rio wasn’t one of my best so I want to make up for it.”
Fanous, who was born in Amman but moved to England, aged five, said that his Olympic dream started as an eight-year-old swimmer but he started to get serious around eight to 10 years ago as he developed into a full time triathlete, based out of Loughborough.
“It was a very tough two-year qualifying period for Rio with a lot of ups and downs but it was all very much worthwhile in the end.
“There is no limit to age as you tend to get stronger as you get older for triathlon so that isn’t a factor. The silver medallist in London for example was aged 32.”
It has been a long and hard working slog for Lawrence to reach the sport’s summit. He has been competing longer as a triathlete than the sport has been officially recognised in Jordan (2005), and he is now key to its next phase of development here.
He hopes that by competing at the very top of the sport will encourage more people to take it up and, in turn, a new generation of champions will appear.
“Triathlon is a very rewarding sport,” he said. “I have been doing it for 15 years and yet I still get the same buzz when I cross a finish line. It consists of swimming, cycling and running which are three of the best ways to keep fit so doing all three is hugely rewarding. Even if you are unable to do one because of an injury you can still do the other two to keep fit.”
Lawrence’s decision to turn pro wasn’t taken lightly and he is indebted to his family, sponsors, Jordan Triathlon and the Jordan Olympic Committee for their support.
“You don’t go into a sport expecting to be a professional athlete, especially triathlon as it is not the highest paid sport. You go into it to enjoy it. But there comes a time when you have to decide how you want to live and this was what I wanted. They call it ‘living the dream’ to be a professional athlete and that was what I wanted so that was what I strived to do.”
He says that he was honoured to have been in the same delegation as Ahmad Abu Ghaush, who took gold in the taekwondo, but admits he is not sure if he could handle the fame that has followed that historic first Olympic medal for the Kingdom.
So, as Lawrence decides his next competitive move, he is focussed on the short term future and an event happening in Jordan in November.
Coming to Aqaba on November 18 is a triathlon for both elite and amateur participants being organised by Jordan Triathlon.
“I urge everyone thinking about it, to give it a try,” he said. “It will be a good event and all levels of ability are encouraged to enter.”
More information on the event can be obtained through the Jordan Triathlon Facebook page.