Great Britain’s Alex Yee and Beth Potter made a winning start to their season after triumphing in the elite races of the World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi, presented by Daman, on Friday.
Held at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit, the world’s best athletes were in action as they began their quest to claim precious ranking points to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris on a day which also featured the Para Cup races.
In the women’s race, World No.5 Beth Potter put on an impressive performance as she battled in the hot conditions to reign supreme and claim her first ever gold at the highest level.
Riding in a six-deep break on the bike then pulling clear with team-mate Sophie Coldwell over the 5km finale, it was on the last climb of the run that Potter pulled clear. She finished the race in just under an hour - 57:56, finishing ahead of Coldwell and USA’s Taylor Spivey, who claimed silver and bronze medals respectively.
Speaking of her performance, Potter, 31, was thrilled with her victory. She said: “It’s fantastic to win. I worked hard on the swim to stay in contention and then tried to get a bit of a gap for the rest of the race. The bike was good for me and I felt I was technically good although it was hard technically.
“The hot weather made the race more challenging but given it’s only a Sprint race, I kept going until the end. This will give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season and I will keep training hard when I go back to Leeds.”
Meanwhile, in the men’s race, World No.2 Alex Yee could not have asked for a better start as he powered to victory in a time of 52:53. The 25-year-old, who won silver at the 2020 Olympic Games, delivered a trademark 5km run to hold off a strong field and add another gold to his collection.
For runner-up Vasco Vilaca of Portugal, who finished six second adrift, it was his first podium in the World Triathlon Series in three years while Brazil’s Manoel Messias came third.
Speaking after his win, Yee said: “I know it’s early doors as there’s still a long way to go until the end of the season so really pleased to start on a winning note. I’ve been away in Australia for four weeks so happy that has paid off.
“I just wanted to perform well strongly throughout the race and not give up on positions on the swim, bike and run and wanted to race bravely and I felt I was in control.”
Elsewhere, Spain’s Jairo Ruiz Lopez was among the winners in the Para Cup races. He came out on top in the PTS5 category in a time of 59:54 ahead of France’s Antoine Besse and Cyprus’ Andreas Doulappas.
The Spaniard said: “It’s really good especially as it was a difficult season last year with injuries. Today I’m really happy to have won and can’t wait to be back again in Abu Dhabi. I’m very happy with how I swam and cycled which went perfectly for me and set me strongly for the rest of the race.”
Winners in the Para Cup also included Spain’s Carmen Gonzalez Sanchez in the PTS4 category. In the PTWC races, the experienced figure of Florian Brungraber from Austria led Jose Cristobal Ramos Jimenez from the first strokes of the swim to record the win while Eva Maria Moral Pedrero won gold.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s younger generation showed why the sport has a bright future with some spirited performances in the junior races.
Among the hundreds to follow on the same course as the elite athletes was 12-year-old Alexander Da Cruz who took part in the 12-13 age group duathlon. He was in awe of competing on the F1 track – the second time in a week.
He said: “I love the sport and I usually cycle and run a lot so competing against other people really pushed me to go further and makes you think about what you can achieve in the future. I competed in the Tri Yas last week so it was cool to be running and cycling on the Formula One track.”
Another youngster who enjoyed the experience was Maria Samuelle who was part of the 10-11 duathlon race. The 10-year-old said: “I really enjoyed myself. It was a bit hard but I kept on going and happy to have finished. I love swimming, cycling and running so it was great to compete here.”
It is the eighth year that Abu Dhabi is staging the pinnacle world triathlon event which will conclude on Saturday with the Age Group races.
Marisol Casado, President of World Triathlon, said: “The opening races of the World Championship Series 2023 in Abu Dhabi were a huge success once again and we thank Abu Dhabi Sports Council for staging an excellent event. Every year, the standard of racing goes from strength to strength and it was no different today.
“Abu Dhabi, and specifically Yas Island, is the home of some outstanding sporting facilities – to see the top elite athletes from around the world, along with the younger generation compete here today really showcases Abu Dhabi’s position as a leading global sporting destination. I congratulate all those who raced today, and wish all the age group athletes the best of luck for their races tomorrow."