Shaikha Al Shaiba: Nothing is Impossible for this Para-triathlete!

April 16, 2018
Shaikha Al Shaiba: Nothing is Impossible for this Para-triathlete!

Dear Explorer,

Have you ever felt you’re not fit enough to take on a challenge like the Spartan Race? Next time you have doubts, think of the inspirational woman we interviewed this week: Shaikha Al Shaiba. She is a para-triathlete from Bahrain who lost her arm to cancer at the age of 18 months.
Today, she takes on the most intense physical challenges and triathlons like Ironman and also obstacle-course races like the Spartan Race with one arm. Can you image climbing walls and crawling through the mud with just your left arm? If that is not enough, Shaikha is an accomplished business woman and is currently the vice president of an investment company in Bahrain. This woman is truly an inspiration!

Meet Shaikha at the Jebal Shams Challenge!

If you want to meet and listen to her then here is your chance! Register for the Jebal Shams Challenge in Oman (19th – 22nd April 2018) where you will hike up the GCC’s highest mountain and get the chance to listen to world-class speakers, including Shaikha Al Shaiba.

Shaikha Al Shaiba -ITU site

Shaikha waving the Bahrani flag at the ITU Abu Dhabi 2018 triathlon | Image Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba

Early Years

ub-cool: As a child, was it difficult in school being an amputee or were your peers supportive?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: Yes, it was very difficult at the early stage of school, but my mother and siblings were very supportive and motivational.

ub-cool: What motivates you to get up every day and take on the business world and these incredible athletic challenges?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I am grateful for every single thing I have and that really motivates me every day as I believe that I am here to send a message to the world to inform them that:

being disable is not the end of the world – it’s just the start of exploring life.



ub-cool: Were you active in sports growing up? If so, what sports did you enjoy?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I was involved in swimming and running when I was in school. Later, I tried to get into different fields like Crossfit and different types of races.

ub-cool: When did you transition to training for triathlons and races like Spartan and Ironman?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I started in 2017 when the Spartan Race came to Bahrain. I had decided to participate in the Super distance category and after accomplishing that race, it made me decide to take things to the next level and train for a triathlon.

ub-cool: What specific challenges in the Spartan Race and Ironman are the most difficult for you to complete?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: The most difficult challenges for me are the obstacles in the Spartan Race that require both hands and, in triathlons, the swimming portion is what I am most slow at. I’m trying and working on improving my speed at swimming.

Also, in the running portion, after 6-7km I start getting hip pain where I pull a muscle, which is normally the case for me. However, I’m still trying to figure out different ways to overcome this for future races.


Shaikha flying over an obstacle in a Spartan Race | Image Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba

ub-cool: Have you had any accidents or difficult moments during these competitions? What was the worst?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: Yes, I did face an obstacle when I participated in Ironman 70.3 in Dubai this year. The waves were very high making the swim extremely rough and tough for me. I was struggling in the swim and I was able to swim only 500m before I began to get dizzy and threw up because of the very high waves. I was pulled out by the rescue team and I eventually had to pull out from the race completely.

ub-cool: I read that you’re the Ambassador for Spartan Race in Bahrain – that’s amazing! How did this come to be?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: Yes, I am the Global Brand Ambassador in Bahrain for Spartan Race. They approached me via email asking me to be their ambassador.

ub-cool: You recently competed in the ITU World Triathlon in Abu Dhabi in March. How did you do and how did it feel?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I did very well and it feels amazing! This feeling is what makes me want to train and push harder for the upcoming races.

ub-cool: What and when is your next race?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I think it’ll be Ironman 70.3 in Bahrain But, you never know… I always surprise myself and see myself participating in new races!

ub-cool: What is your ultimate goal?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I would love to participate in the World Paralympics.

ITU 2018_FinishLine_Day2_455

Shaikha at the finish line at the ITU Abu Dhabi 2018 | Image Source: Shaikha Al Shaiba


ub-cool: What’s your training schedule? How often do you train in the week?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: For the time being, as it’s off season, I train for just 1.5 – 2 hours daily (which at the moment doesn’t include triathlon training; I focus only on both strengthening and conditioning).

ub-cool: Do you follow a specific dietary regimen?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: At the moment, I don’t follow a specific plan.

ub-cool: What do you do the day before a competition?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I prepare myself that I am just here to complete the race and keep calm and enjoy the rest of my day.


Work & Personal Life

ub-cool: What are you passionate about when you’re not training and competing in races and triathlons?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: At the moment, I have been invited to do a lot of public speaking which has now became my new passion.

ub-cool: You’re an accomplished business woman and currently VP of an investment company. How long have you been in finance?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I have been working in the banking sector for the past 13 years.

ub-cool: Does anyone else in your family also compete in races?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: I am single but I am trying to pull my niece and nephew to join in the kids’ races.

ub-cool: What is on your bucket list?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: My upcoming adventure will be on April 19th – the Jabal Shams Challenge in Oman.


Shaikha seen here jumping over the fire pit to complete the Spartan Race in Bahrain, 2018

Inspirational Advice from Shaikha

ub-cool: What message would you give our readers to inspire them to get off the couch and chase their dreams?

Shaikha Al Shaiba: No one on earth will make your dream come true. So, move out of your comfort zone and make your own dreams come true. Don’t chase for support – it will eventually come whether it’s from family, friends, or others.

Liked what you read?

Subscribe below for more inspirational stories!


Feature Image | Sports 360

Where in the world is the ub-cool flag
Where in the World is the ub-cool Flag?

Dear Explorer, The world is your oyster!  You’ve heard that one before, eh? Well, it definitely is our motto at ub-cool. We are conquering the world one country at a time with our flag! The world is truly a small place now that we have the ease of air transport. Long gone are the days of sailing weeks across the rough-gut-wrenching seas, watching your suitcases (or, trunks!) slide across the room and almost squash your legs, just to get from one continent to another. Now, you can do that in 12 hours or less. Where in the World is the ub-cool Flag? Come along with us on our journey as the ub-cool team and friends carry our flag across the globe. We will update this page with new additions from the coolest places on Earth! If you want to be part of the journey, email us for a copy of our flag and then submit your photo and we will add it here! Spread the word and check back to see all the new cool places we have been! Turkey September 2018: Balloons in Cappadocia! Exploring the “fairy chimney” rock formations in Turkey,  brought along the ub-cool flag for the stunning sights! Ukraine August 2018: Cycling through the Carpathian Mountains Cycling enthusiasts, Kate Pakhomov and Fimm, carried the ub-cool flag through Ukraine! South Africa July 2018: Fun at Lion & Safari Park Devan Kupferman and Laura Symmonds watching lion cubs playing with the ub-cool flag! Arctic Circle June 2018: The Ultimate North! The ub-cool flag reached the Arctic Circle in our founder Medina Ilyassova’s backpack! Kenya June 2018: Hiking in Kwale County! Zarian Sohrab hiked with the ub-cool flag to find some spectacular views!   Oman May 2018: Waters around Muscat 10 meters deep in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Muscat, Oman, these passionate freedivers pose with the ub-cool flag! From left to right: Yousuf Al Mukaini, Sele Al Mabsali, and Omar Al Ghailani. Scotland May 2018: Dunottar Castle The ub-cool flag made its way to North East Scotland with our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan! Ireland May 2018: Southern Irish Coast Our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan, high above the beautiful cliffs of Ballycotton in County Cork. Nepal April 2018: Mount Everest Base Camp After 7 days of hiking, our Adventure Girl, Heather Duncan, reached Everest Base Camp! Along for the journey was her friend and Jonathan Shubert, ub-cool Explorer and world-record endurance cyclist. Read more about Heather’s journey to Mount Everest Base camp here. Peru April 2018: Machu Picchu The iconic peak of Peru’s famous mountains rise behind ub-cool friend, Hussein Sajwani. He made the gruelling journey to the peak by the most difficult route… Then he made his way to Vinicuna, the Rainbow Mountain, to handstand in the Andes Mountain range. Georgia April 2018: Caucasus Mountains Enjoying her first visit to the beautiful country of Georgia, Medina Ilyassova returned with memories of paragliding over the stunning scenery, exploring castles, and dining on delicious cuisine. If you’re planning a trip to Georgia, discover awesome Georgia tours here. Hawaii April 2018: Koko Crater After a steep climb ub-cool friend, Anshul Bhatnagar, enjoys the view of a cloudy Honolulu! Kazakhstan  September 2017  ub-cool’s Medina Ilyassova hangs out in the mountains with family and friends. There is nothing better than fresh mountain air! Bulgaria September 2017 ub-cool friend, Hussein Sajwani, making his way through Bulgaria with the our flag in tow! Tanzania May 2017: Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano – “Mountain of God” Perched at the top of this active volcano, seen as the “Mountain of God” by the Maasai community, our ub-cool founder, Medina Ilyassova, waves our flag with exciting at her accomplishment. The climb was intense to say the least. Imagine climbing at an incline of more than 70 degrees! Not to mention, starting earlier in the dark with headlights to avoid roasting under the African sun! Read about Medina’s climb up Ol Doniyo Lengai Volcano here. Last Updated: 21st May 2018 Watch this space for regular updates! Email us for a copy of our flag and we’ll add your submission to this post!

Best Photos
Best Photos of the Web | April 2018

Dear Explorer, We have searched the web looking for the best photos of the web from the month of April 2018 to inspire you to say ‘WOW‘, get outdoors & lead an active life! 10 Best Photos of the Web Here are our Top 10 pics for this month’s photo competition: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah | Instagram: @alexgoldman  The mysteries of Hawaii | Instagram: @kelsealoha The iconic Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco | Instagram: @shangerdanger Turkey is now on our bucket list! Oludeniz Beach | Instagram: @buraktuzer The feeling of freedom! Los Glaciaras, Andes | Instagram: @vagabondhearts Everybody stay calm | @jferrara_photo  Travelling in style in Guam, West Pacific | Instagram: @matecasar Serenity at sunset. Inle Lake, Myanmar | Instagram: @vincelimphoto White Sands Monument in New Mexico | Instagram: @everchanginghorizon And happily ever after! | Instagram @nois7 Did you miss the best photos from March’s photo competition? It’s not too late to check them out. Do you want to submit your photos for May’s photo competition? You can email us or tag us on Facebook or Instagram and remember to use the hashtag #ubcoolphotocomp Liked what you read? Subscribe below and receive more great stories right in your Inbox!

Georgia Tours
4 Best Ways to Explore Georgia on Wheels

Dear Explorer, Counting down the days till your vacation but haven’t settled on a destination? Why don’t you set your eyes on Georgia? (The country in Europe, not the State in the United States!). This country has captured the hearts of many with its warm welcoming nature and generous people. It definitely has the ub-cool team completely in love! Some of our team really enjoy adrenaline-filled adventures like paragliding and white-water rafting, which Georgia has so much of to offer! But, others on the team prefer staying close to the ground – in fact, they prefer their feet firmly fixed to Mother Earth! So, we figured some of you – our lovely readers – may also feel the same and want to check out awesome adventures that keep you as close to the ground as possible. Below are a list of Georgia tours we love that allow you to explore this beautiful country from the comfort of a vehicle. Oh, and don’t forget these Georgia tours are also perfect to enjoy with the family! Related: 4 Best Sky-and-Water Adventures in Georgia 4 Best Georgia Tours on Wheels Recently emerging from decades of Soviet rule, Georgia re-opened its doors to the world in 1991. Since then, there has been a massive building project of hotels and resorts not to mention the increase in the number of flights to this small country. The Caucasus mountains are a sight to be seen – they stand tall with snow-capped peaks against gorgeous rolling-green valleys dotted with small towns. If you’re keen to explore the beautiful countryside and views from the hills all the while keeping your feet close to the ground, we have 4 different options for you from quad bikes to NASCAR-style cars! #1 – Experience the Caucasus Mountains and Castles on this Fun Jeep Tour Jump in for this fantastic jeep tour! The local experts will take you through the Dzama gorge, which is hidden between the valleys of the Borjomi forests and Kartli. Georgians consider this a sacred place as you’ll see by the many old-and-new monasteries in the area. You’ll also visit the gorgeous Bateti lake which sits on a mountain plateau surrounded by forest and a beautiful swamp. Whatever season it is when you visit, make sure you bring your camera because the scenic views will blow your mind! Oh, and we shouldn’t forget to mention the delicious barbeque picnic and red wine tasting you’ll enjoy! Learn more about this Fun Jeep Tour in Georgia > #2 – Explore Georgia on an Amazing Quad Bike Tour Want to explore the rolling green Georgian hills with your friends? Then hop on your very own quad bike and speed away! Imagine spending 2 hours exploring Mitarbi mountain, Bakuriani traditional villages, and rice fields! Then, after lunch, you’ll get the chance to taste the famous Borjomi mineral water in the national park! For those wondering – yes, the quad bike is really easy to handle making for a truly enjoyable journey. And, if you’re looking for fresh air, then this is the trip for you! Learn more about this quad bike tour in Georgia > #3 – An Exciting NASCAR-Style Car Ride in Georgia Do you love watching car races? Well, when in Gerogia, why don’t you give it a try! Strap on your seat belt and take this first-generation NASCAR car, The Legends, down the track for a spin! This modern vehicle is in the retro style fitted with a Yamaha 1300cc, 145 horsepower engine. What does this mean? Yes – You’ll go from 0 to 100km in 4.2 seconds! Fact: before NASCAR, this vehicle was a popular get-away car for the mafia! Learn more about racing NASCAR-style cars in Georgia > #4 – Adrenaline-Packed Off-Roading Drive Through Georgia Calling adrenaline seekers, this rafting trip in Georgia is perfect for you! Hang on tight for an exhilarating rafting trip down fast-moving waters! If you’re new to rafting, learn to raft from local experts and set off on an adventure of a life time. The waters in Georgia’s rivers are ideal for white-water rafting enthusiasts. Do you live for adrenaline-filled adventures? Then this off-roading tour is for you! Race through Georgia’s rugged terrain in the best off-roading vehicle, Polaris RZR. This high-quality AT vehicle will have you perched atop hills in no time! Learn more about off-roading drives in Georgia > Looking for other adventures? Visit ub-cool for more exciting adventures from all around the world! Working with local experts, the ub-cool team seeks out the best adventures for you to try! Liked what you read? Subscribe below to get more adventure tips right in your inbox!

Xia Boyu
Xia Boyu: Double Amputee Summits Mt Everest

Dear Explorer, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again” – this is definitely the case for 69-year-old mountain climber Xia Boyu who successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, this week. Xia Boyu On Monday, the 14th of May, Xia Boyu achieved his goal on his fifth attempt of conquering the iconic mountain spanning over 4 decades of attempts. You’ll be shocked to learn that it is not his mature age of 69 that sets Xia apart from the other 500 climbers attempting Everest this year… but also that he is a double amputee!  Photo Credit: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images First Attempt Led to Double Amputation Xia, now 69 years old, first tried to scale the 8,848m peak back in 1975. Only a tantalising 200m from the peak of the world, the climbers were heart broken as they were forced to turn back due to high-altitude storms. They were descending in treacherous conditions when Xia, then aged 26, gave up his sleeping bag to a fellow climber who was struggling, according to Chinese media. The severe weather took its toll on him and he discovered the next morning that he had frostbite in his feet, requiring both to be amputated. “It’s not been easy for me to reach the peak of Mount Everest which I’ve dreamed of,” he was quoted by the Peoples Daily. Related: Learn how Shaikha Al Shaiba takes on triathlons with only one arm! Time Line of Xia’s Climbing Dream 1975 – At age 26, Xiya made his initial attempt at Mount Everest but suffered frostbitten feet which required amputation. 1996 – Using prosthetic limbs he climbed mountains around Beijing but tragedy struck when he learnt he had contracted lymphoma and would need both legs amputated beneath the knee. 2014 –  Xia was ready to tackle Everest again, but his attempt was not possible due to ice avalanches. 2015 – Having reached Base Camp, his next attempt was delayed due to the disastrous Nepal earthquake of 2015. 2016 –  He attempted the climb again; but, within 100m of the peak, he had to turn back due to poor weather. 2017 – His planned attempt for 2018 was nearly derailed by the Nepal government, which in December banned double amputees and blind people from climbing Everest. It was claimed that it would make the mountain safer. 2018 – The Nepal Supreme Court finally ruled that the ban was discriminatory and it was dropped in March 2018. 2018, May – SUCCESS! Photo Credit: Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters In April 2018, a month before his fifth attempt, Xia told Agence France-Presse that climbing Everest was his dream. “I have to realise it,” he said. “It also represents a personal challenge, a challenge of fate.” On Monday 14th May, Xia finally reached the peak of Mount Everest. “Boyu finally won his 40-year-long battle for Mount Everest,” Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, the managing director at Imagine Treks, who accompanied the Chinese climber, told the Himalayan Times. Other Aamputees who have climbed Everest? Xia is the second double amputee to climb the summit after the New Zealander, Mark Inglis, who reached the peak from the Tibetan side in 2006. Santiago Quintero, who had half of each foot amputated during a climb in south America, also reached the peak in 2013. Congratulations Xia Boyu! Your determination and perseverance are an inspiration to us all! Feature photo: / courtesy of Xia Boyu Do you have a cool story to share with us? Get in touch at