Olympian triathlete Shachar Sagiv is set to participate in the Super League Triathlon in Saudi Arabia this weekend, making him the first Israeli to compete in the kingdom in yet another sign of thawing relations between the regional neighbors.
On Saturday, Sagiv will take part in the fifth round of the race, which will include team-based cycling, swimming, and running. In the most recent competition in France, he ranked the fastest cyclist and was the eighth-best competitor overall.
Saudi Arabia usually does not allow Israelis to enter but has recently issued special visas to Israeli citizens, particularly businesspeople, according to Globes.
Although the Jewish state and the Gulf nation do not have official diplomatic relations, they have cooperated covertly in recent years, with Saudi Arabia seeing Israel as a strategic partner in the face of Iranian aggression.
“I am very excited to be a trailblazer by being the first Israeli athlete to compete in Saudi Arabia,” Sagiv told Sport1. “This is proof that sports connect peoples and countries.”
“I hope to have a good competition, move up in the general ranking at the end of the race and retain first place in the cycling competition,” he added.
Participants of the annual Super League Triathlon compete for a prize of up to $1.5 million, with smaller winnings for victors of individual races.
Sagiv and his brother were only the second and third Israeli triathletes to participate in the Olympics when they broke Israeli records in the 2020 Tokyo Games by ranking 20th and 35th, respectively.
Sagiv is set to compete in the Bermuda World Triathlon Championship Series in November as part of his effort to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.