Triple treat: Dina Al Tayeb

Living up to the #squadonamission hashtag, Breitling’s newest ambassador Dina Al Tayeb is a pioneering Saudi triathlete that’s seemingly unstoppable. GMT GCC Magazine (just about) caught up with her to talk women, watches and what’s next for this person of purpose

Dr Dina Al Tayeb is a dentist and mother of three from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. But before that perfect image of domesticity settles in your mind, there are a few other things you should know: she was the first Saudi woman to compete in a full-distance Ironman, the first Saudi in her age group to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona and she has competed in more than 100 triathlons to date. Phew.

Her very first Ironman in 2005 was a 15-hour slog, and wasn’t helped by her being the only person in Saudi training for the extreme race, unable to access the necessary level of coaching and nutrition knowledge to make a significant dent in the race time. But little by little Dina has perfected her process by trial and error, paving the way for other Middle Eastern triathletes to go forward and succeed in this toughest of disciplines.

A perfect fit, then, as an ambassador for Breitling, the official watchmaker of Ironman – and a brand on its own mission. First partnering with Ironman in 2019, Breitling launched the Superocean Ironman Limited Edition, and this year the watchmaker affirmed this sporting connection by co-designing the Endurance Pro Ironman series of athleisure timepieces with the Ironman Group. A racy red version is available globally, while a black and gold edition is reserved exclusively for Ironman race finishers; an elite club of which Dina is a member.

“Ironman truly reflects our core values of performance and endurance,” said Breitling CEO Georges Kern at the launch of the new timepieces. “We’ve designed this to be an ideal watch for elite athletes as well as a casual, everyday sports chronograph for active people who want that winning combination of performance and luxury.”

Equally thrilled was Ironman Group President and CEO Andrew Messich, who said: “After the success of our collaboration in 2019, we are pleased to partner with Breitling in creating this new watch which embodies the strength and tenacity of Ironman triathletes.”

And there are few as strong and tenacious as Dina. Joining Breitling’s existing elite Triathlon Squad members Jan Frodeno, Daniela Ryf and Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack, it’s Dina’s time to shine – in every aspect of her life.

We all have dreams. It’s about believing in yourself.

GMT: As a leading athlete in Saudi, you represent the potential, progress and achievement of Saudi women in sport. How does it feel to have such a role, and to see young generations of Saudi women achieving in sport for the very first time? 

Dina: This is the best time to be an athlete. As we see how Saudi Arabia progresses rapidly under vision 2030, we see the progress and the support that the government gives to its athletes. There has never been a better time. There is great passion for sports and for triathlons. There are so many young female athletes that have amazing potential and are dedicated, passionate and have the support to excel in sports. When I started triathlon in 2002, the sport was new in the region, the facilities were limited, and the community was not existent. I had to rely solely on my internal motivation and drive to excel and achieve. 

You work closely with the Saudi triathlon federation and support women to gain a bigger platform in triathlon – why is it so crucial to support and encourage more women into sports?

I am a board member of the Saudi Triathlon Federation and I have an amazing team with me. We work on developing new talent in triathlon, both female and male athletes. Our job is to give them all the support that they need so they can develop the needed talent to be the best in the sport. We as a federation promote both women and men in sports as part of the 2030 vision. 

How do Breitling’s brand values and your own align?

Breitling represents endurance. In my sport and in my life endurance is important to achieve my dreams. Dreams are achieved by hard work, persistence and patience. Breitling is my partner in my endurance journey and I know there’s a joint mission for realizing aspirations with a sense of fun. 

The Breitling Endurance Pro is a timepiece that celebrates movement, adventure and being outdoors – what do you love about your Breitling Endurance Pro? 

It represents quality, style and strength – all the elements that are needed to succeed. The watch is lightweight which is perfect for athletes and active people. It’s also fashionable enough for everyday wear. I wear the Ironman edition, which reminds me of my achievements.

How did you get into triathlons?

I think the sport found me, as I stumbled upon triathlon by chance and fell in love with the endurance aspect from the first race. I started in 2002, with 2005 being my first full Ironman in Canada. Twenty years later, I’ve done over 100 races including 18 full Ironmans. To me triathlon is a lifestyle, one that’s fun and exciting. 

What does measuring time mean to you in the context of this incredible sport that consists of three sports in one – a swim, a bike and a run?

Racing full distance Ironman requires precise preparation. We have to prepare what to wear, the equipment we need, our nutrition, how fast we run, the power we put on the bike. Everything is carefully calculated by the minute. We have to have a solid plan that we practice multiple times to ensure that it is effective. Time is a critical part of the plan.

You were the first Saudi in your age group to qualify for Kona, which is the pinnacle event of your sport. What did that feel like?

Qualifying for Kona was a dream that I chased for 15 years. It was not an easy journey, with many obstacles that needed navigation and ,many trials that did not lead to the result I wanted. But I never stopped believing in my dream or doubting that I will get there one day. I am grateful that my dream became a reality and I was an athlete on the start line of that magical island in 2018. 

Can you share a special memory that relates to ‘time’ – perhaps a personal achievement, or a moment in your life that was very emotional and is now a cherished memory?

Qualifying for the world championship in Kona meant winning my age group with the fastest time in the race. The competition is hard and the athletes are fast and strong. In Ironman Chattanooga 2017 I had an amazing race where the weather was hot, and I raced well. Being from Saudi Arabia, I am used to racing in warm climates. Heat does not affect me. I had the fastest time of the day and was able to get my Kona qualifying slot.

You’re also a brand ambassador for ASICS and much sought-after by brands in the region. How do you choose which brands to work with? 

Asics Frontrunners is an amazing community. I am honoured to be with a brand that is known for excellence, style and support of everyone. We are stronger together, and it’s a brand that believes in ‘sound mind, sound body’ which resonates with me. I believe that sports are more than a finish line. It’s a journey and a lifestyle. I am very selective in working with brands that share my value and passion.

Finally, as a new Breitling ambassador, what are you most excited about? 

I am very excited to spread my message and share my journey with other women in my region. Help them achieve their dreams, inspire them to achieve the impossible. We all have dreams. It’s about believing in yourself.  

Breitling Endurance Pro Ironman

  • Case: Breitlight® with bidirectional compass scale bezel
  • Size: 44mm, 12.5mm thick
  • Movement: Quartz Breitling Caliber 82 in thermocompensated SuperQuartz™ with a battery life of 3-4 years
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and chronograph
  • Dial: Red with black inner bezel with pulsometer scale, black chronograph counters, Ironman logo and Super-LumiNova® numerals, hour and minute hands
  • Strap: Red rubber with Breitlight® buckle