Neither Fasting, Dust Storms, nor the Pandemic Could Keep GE Employees from Sporting Success
May 19, 2021 by GE
COVID restrictions and Ramadan fasting were no obstacle for 20 determined GE employees who racked up more than 5,300 km of walking, jogging, and cycling to make GE the only company with two top-five teams in a recent corporate sports challenge.
One contributor to that total was Otmane Benamar, an avid cyclist who regularly clocked more than 150 km a ride during the competition.
“It was a challenge during Ramadan, but I considered it a way to push myself beyond what I believed my limits were,” said the executive manager for regional customer application engineering at GE Gas Power, MENA.
“Most of the time I rode after iftar, but decided to spice it up, by riding on Fridays before iftar and then doing longer rides after. I managed to do my longest distance ever – 200km – on one of those Fridays: 50km before iftar and 150km after!”
“Being part of the challenge motivated me and helped me remain committed to cycling despite Ramadan constraints. I tried my best to do more rides and longer distances in order to support the team to keep at the top of the rankings,” he added.
The event was the first-ever American University of Sharjah Virtual Alumni & Corporate Sports Challenge. More than 450 men and women, participating as individuals or on 27 corporate teams, collectively logged over 39,000km through a combination of activities. To count toward each team’s total, each logged session had to exceed 5km.
The Ramadan routine for Sabih Zaman, Segment Lifecycle Director with GE Healthcare, was to eat his iftar meal, visit the mosque, and then go on a 20 km ride. “It was a challenge this year because the timing for my goals – both during the spiritual month of Ramadan and my own fitness goals – had to be condensed between 6:45pm and midnight.”
The challenge also inspired Shanika Wickramasinghe, Project Staff Manager at GE Grid Solutions. “When you’re in a competitive mode, nothing can stop you. Even if it was dusty, windy or hot, I went out for a ride to add more kilometers to our team.”
Birendra Nayak, Senior Strategic Pricing & Business Intelligence Leader at GE Power, also learned what he was capable of. “The AUS Virtual Challenge helped me push myself to my ‘walking limit!’” It’s a distance most could not match: about 50,000 steps a day, equivalent to more than 37km of walking!
GE was an eager participant in the AUS event, given its longstanding partnership with the university. On an ongoing basis, GE employees serve as mentors to AUS students, and regularly participate in on- and off-campus recruitment and career days with the university.
The competition was organized by local GE HealthAhead volunteer advocates who champion global HealthAhead wellness initiative in the UAE. For this event, when they saw such high interest, they created not just one but two teams.
Globally, HealthAhead supports a company culture that inspires, encourages and provides tools to GE employees, and their families, to embrace health and wellbeing and live a well-balanced life. It focuses on four areas: physical, emotional, social, and financial.
Every year, GE hosts a HealthAhead Day, which this year occurs today, May 19, just as the GE UAE HealthAhead team and participants in the AUS challenge celebrate their successes!
This year’s HealthAhead Day events include a “Rise to the Challenge” activity that creates a friendly competition globally among GE business units. Participants record on the Grokker app any of a series of wellness activities, from jogging or cycling to taking a short online nutrition course, to meditation.
The business unit with the highest average number of minutes per participant wins “bragging rights” at the end of the challenge. But as Taleb Alkhaja, GE UAE HealthAhead leader and Marketing Operations Director, EMEA for GE Healthcare, said, “Everybody wins when we’re making time for self-care and wellness.”
Other elements of the day include wellness webinars covering all four aspects of the HealthAhead mission. In past years, HealthAhead Day has included activities like in-person onsite meditation sessions, onsite health checks, and onsite talks by nutritionists.
A big congratulations to all AUS Sports Challenge participants!
Amer El-Kalache, Ayoub Wakileh, Birendra Kumar Nayak, Dwarkesh Sawant, Eda Caliskan, Elena Zhukova, Eliane Kozal, Fatima Taha, Jana Trad, Lasantha Wickramasinghe, Noora Al-kheily, Otmane Benamar, Rabih Yazbeck, Rana Darwish, Robert Papp, Sabih Zaman, Saber Azizi, Shanika Wickramasinghe, Tarek Al-Jabi, and Vikrant Kumar