By U.S. Army Capt. Nicholas Soroka
ASG-QA, HHC, commanderDOHA, Qatar - "Don't get your hopes up. We normally don't win..."This isn't the standard pre-game pep-talk you'd expect from your coach. Then again, the Qatar Armed Forces Sports aren't your standard competitions.Every year, the Qatari Military Sport Association hosts an average of 10 competitions, pitting each branch of the Qatari military against one another. Generals from every branch attend and these intra-military competitions feed a fierce rivalry. Similar to our Army-Navy football game, each military branch fights feverishly to recruit and train the best athletes. For the Cycling Championship, the Qatari Air Force enlisted the Qatari National Cycling Team and flew them from their training grounds in Switzerland for the race. A runner from the logistics branch ran a 14:03 5k; the winning 2012 Olympic time was 13:41. The Land Forces basketball team had a starting center that you might have seen in March Madness. With so much pride on the line, these teams not only recruit the best athletes, they spend months exclusively preparing them.And every year, they're gracious enough to invite Camp As Sayliyah to participate. Needless to say, we don't normally win. We don't normally make the podium. And we don't normally ask what place we took.As far back as oral history can remember, there have been only two exceptions. For the Ramadan Soccer Tournament of 2011, the CAS squad crystallized as a scoring machine. It also helped that all the opposing players spent every day for the prior three weeks without food or water. The second exception occurred April 22, 2013 when Camp As Sayliyah won the Qatari Armed Forces Triathlon. Individually placing 2nd, 3rd, and 6th out of a field of 54 competitors, the CAS team dominated the event. How did it happen?The Qatari athletes, including near-Olympic runners and the Qatar National Cycling Team, clearly outmatched the CAS team based on athletic talent. But the triathlon, consisting of a 300m ocean swim, a 15k mountain bike, a 3k run, and timed transitions between these events, required a challenging blend of athletic performance across multiple fields, specialized skills, and race tactics.While many of the Qatari athletes were unprepared to meet those challenges, the CAS team had spent the season taking advantage of all CAS and Doha had to offer: CAS Triathlons, the Al Udeid Air force Base Triathlon, Qatar Chain Reaction Duathlons (Bike to Run), CAS's Swim to Bahrain Challenge, CAS 5ks, the Dukain Water Sports Triathlon, and the Aspire Aquathon Series (Swim to Run).Although the Qataris were physically better athletes, the CAS team proved themselves better triathletes. And because of that, until next season, the 1st place trophy will reside on Camp As Sayliyah and U.S. Military shelves.