Abu Dhabi: Participants from 51 countries will descend on Abu Dhabi this weekend for the city’s fourth annual triathlon, which is the opening race of the ITU World Triathlon Series.
Amateurs will rub shoulders with world and Olympic champions over the Yas Island course with the swim, bike and run event taking place on and around the Formula One Grand Prix circuit at Yas Marina.
Over 2,000 adults and 500 juniors have signed up for the event including a record number of elite athletes including Olympic medallist Jonathan Brownlee, world champions Mario Mola and Flora Duffy, Paralympic gold medallist Andy Lewis and reigning champion Andrea Hewitt.
“It’s exciting to be back here in Abu Dhabi,” said Hewitt. “Last year was a really special win so I’m looking forward to racing on Friday. I’ve been here a few days working with the Tri Belles and meeting some young female triathletes from the UAE and it’s pretty exciting to see these triathletes coming through in the Middle East and I’ll be down there on Saturday supporting the age groupers too.”
As the only ITU World Triathlon Series race in the Middle East, the event has seen increased participation in a number of categories.
“The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is firmly established as one of the highlights on the region’s sporting calendar,” said Abu Dhabi Sports Council director of technical affairs Talal Al Hashemi. “This is both as a community driver and in terms of the international attention it brings to the emirate.
“Now in its fourth year, the event boasts a stellar field with over 100 of the world’s best triathletes ready to take on their first race of the season — a 21 per cent increase on last year’s elite participation. What is also heartening is the increase in the numbers of women participating in our community races this year — a six per cent increase on 2017. The ever-increasing interest in the sport, from the grassroots level up, is a positive reflection of the bright future ahead for the sport in the region.”
The introduction of new categories — including a dedicated wave for Para-athletes — has been a welcome addition, while the race will also see Special Olympics World Games triathletes compete for the first time.
Paralympic gold medallist Lewis said: “I’m honoured to be here. To everyone involved with the triathlon, the race organisers and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, it is an absolute privilege to be invited because I really want to show Abu Dhabi and the rest of the world that Para-triathletes train just as hard as the elite able bodied. Inclusivity is really important to me and it’s important for people to see what we do. I look up to many of the elites competing, but it’s really the kids competing that inspire me.
“This year I’ll be competing in a mixed-relay with Becky Anderson from CNN. I’ve never done the relay, but it’s really exciting for me because I’ll be racing with the able bodied, in a big wave.”
The triathlon will also welcome hundreds of children as part of the junior category, while children as young as two can take part in the mini 1-km.
“The fourth annual ITU World Triathlon Series Abu Dhabi is returning, and this year is certainly going to be the biggest and, most importantly, the most inclusive triathlon event the Middle East has ever seen,” said event director, Gary Marescia.
“We approached this race with a feeling of inclusivity and accessibility — together with Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the International Triathlon Union, and our presenting partner Daman, we feel that everyone should be able to enjoy our incredible sport and that there should be no boundaries to our competition. The awareness, interest and increased participation at sports events here in the UAE is great testament to the growth of sport, in particular triathlon, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Abu Dhabi this weekend.”