Fourth ITU World Triathlon Series Abu Dhabi welcomes 103 elites from 28 nations – the biggest ever elite field.
South African Henri Schoeman secured the first gold medal of the season whilst Dutch triathlete Rachel Klamer races to victory in exciting women’s elite race.
The 2018 ITU World Triathlon Season has officially begun as the world’s top ranked triathletes gathered in Abu Dhabi, the sports capital of the Middle East, for the season opener. South African, Henri Schoeman claimed the first honours of the season as he claimed victory in the elite men’s category sprint distance, whilst Dutch triathlete Rachel Klamer picked up the first women’s medal in an action-packed day on the iconic Yas Island.
Schoeman produced a stellar performance and was first out of the water, taking the lead into the bike section following a smooth first transition. Despite the unusual rain that caused some slickness out on the bike course for many athletes, Schoeman managed to come out on top and enter the second transition 13 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. The South African becomes only the second man in WTS history to win the race after leading in all three disciplines from start to finish and picks up just his second World Triathlon Series gold medal, following his win at the Cozumel Grand Final in 2016.
“I am just so happy, there really are no words to explain,” said Schoeman. “I just tried to play it safe out there. I found myself in front on the bike and before I knew it I had a gap and the gap grew. To just be honest, I was having fun out there, I was telling myself that if they catch me on the run, well whatever because I had fun on the bike and I was safe. Mario [Mola] is a fantastic runner, but my fitness is there and it is good to have a race like this, it told me I am in great form as the Commonwealth Games is my next race. I am so thrilled, the last time I was on the top step was in Cozumel in 2016 and I am so glad I did it in such a great way.”
Earning the silver medal was Spaniard Mario Mola, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2015 and 2016. While the bronze went to Vincent Luis (FRA), who repeated his third-place position from 2017.
Meanwhile, in the women’s field, Rachel Klamer became the 21st woman to ever win an ITU World Triathlon Series race after her season-opening victory at the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. After a smart and conservative race strategy that brought her through the swim and bike, Klamer entered the final lap in front and battled with her fellow triathletes in a running race for the podium. Giving everything she had, Klamer went on to earn the gold medal and her first WTS victory of her career.
“I am so happy, there was no way I was expecting this,” said Klamer. “I have to say I was quite scared on the bike because the last few months I have been training on only straight roads and didn’t do any corners. There was a lot of women crashing so I just decided to take it easy, ride hard, but just go easy through the corners. When we started running I tried to focus on my breathing because normally at the start of the season I often get side stitches. I stayed at the back of the back on the first lap, but on the last lap I thought I would just give it a try.”
The silver medal went to Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth, adding to the silver medal she picked up Stockholm last year. The medal gives the Brit good standing going into her last month of training before the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April.
Going into today’s elite races, both the men’s and women’s line up’s were stacked with world-class talent, as nine of the top 10 world ranked men and eight of the top 10 world ranked women were included in the start list to take on the sprint-distance course.
Commenting on the success of the opening day of the ITU World Triathlon Series Abu Dhabi 2018, His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council said; “The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2018 has been the most successful and inclusive triathlon event hosted in the Middle East. Our elite field boasted 17 of the top 20 male and female triathletes, from all corners of the globe, all of which competed spectacularly in what is now one of the biggest races on the ITU calendar. It was fantastic to see hundreds of supporters come out to cheer on their sporting heroes, and is testament to the success of the event and the continued growth of triathlon here in the UAE. We look forward to making next year’s event bigger and better as we work towards our vision of 2021 - hosting the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final.”
Triathlon fans will get the chance to see more live action on Saturday, as Yas Island welcomes over 2,000 age group category competitors.