UNC student Mohammed Al Awami celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Saudi Arabian national road racing championship.
Photo courtesy of Mohammed Al Awami
University of Northern Colorado student Mohammed Al Awami has been watching the Tour De France on TV every day, and as the Super Bowl of bicycle racing winds down, he's gearing up to resume his racing career.
The 19-year-old moved to the United States from Aoqaesis, Saudi Arabia, last year, three weeks after graduating from high school. He recently transferred to UNC from Aims Community College with hopes of getting accepted into UNC's nursing program.
Being able to join the UNC cycling team, which competes as a club sport through Campus Recreation, made the move even sweeter.
And although nursing is something that Al Awami is sure he'll enjoy, his passion right now is cycling.
When he was 13, a friend took him to a small cycling club in Aoqaesis. He was tentative about joining at first, but the club's coach convinced him to try it.
"I trained for five or six months, and then I loved it," Al Awami said.
In 2006 he placed third in his first race, and the coach of the Saudi national cycling team recruited him so he could compete internationally. Since then, he has been in countless races, and earned some prestigious victories.
In both 2008 and 2009, Al Awami won Saudi Arabia's cycling championship. In 2010 he placed second in the international Arab Gulf Cycling Championships, with hundreds of racers from Persian Gulf nations competing.
He plans to start racing again once he's officially a part of the UNC cycling club. Until then, his coach back in Saudi Arabia is sending him training schedules, and he's still getting used to cycling at higher altitudes.
"If I feel bored, I go biking," Al Awami said. "I feel that if I don't train, it feels like I lost something."
But he knows that his passion for cycling will someday have to give way to a nursing career, an obvious choice since his sister is a nurse and his mother wants him to become one too.
Al Awami plans to ultimately earn a master's degree, and then work in the U.S. to gain experience before returning to Saudi Arabia.
For more information about the UNC cycling club, visit http://unccycling.org/default.aspx
- Elizabeth Same, UNC journalism major