A record 2,500 age group participants from 52 countries raced in the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi on the same course as World Champions and Olympic medallists this weekend on the magnificent Yas Island.
With a 39% percent field increase since the event launched in 2015, this year’s event – hosted by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council – has again raised the bar, with thousands of participants running on inspiration as they raced the same course as the world's fastest triathletes.
"It was absolutely refreshing to see the breadth of athleticism and talent of all the competitors who joined us for an unforgettable weekend of triathlon." said Khaled Al Qubaisi, Senior Project Manager, Events, Abu Dhabi Sports Council. "This is exactly what we aim to achieve through such events – uniting people of all abilities who share a passion for the sport. We are also encouraged to see the increasing number of Emirati participants, which has quadrupled since the debut event in 2015."
The ITU World Triathlon Series third edition featured three distances to suit people of all experience levels – Sprint, Olympic and Maxi – as well as junior races for children aged 5 years and up. The event – which took place in its new Yas Island home this year – has also swelled its global appeal, with representation from Thailand, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Philippines, Germany, Egypt, Russia, Romania, USA, Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Bahrain, Turkey, Switzerland, Netherlands, Indonesia, Cyprus and more.
One of the fastest Emirati triathletes on the course today was Faisal Bin Hajar, part of a six man team representing Abu Dhabi Police at the race. "The feeling you get when you cross the finish line is indescribable. I've been doing triathlon for a year and I am immensely enjoying the multi-sport discipline. I come from a cycling background so that has definitely helped. I am so happy that beat my PB and earned fourth place in my category."
On the other hand, we spoke to the excited gold medallist in the women's category, Egypt's Basmla El Salamoney, who blasted to a new PB in her category. The 18-year-old said: "This is my first World Triathlon Series triathlon event. I started out as a swimmer which is great because the swim leg is usually the most feared discipline in triathlon. I was introduced to the sport through the Olympics and last year I made the decision to start doing triathlons. With the support of my family and coach I've made great progress in the sport. The cycling was certainly challenging but I love a challenge so I made it through."
One of the oldest age group contenders, UK's Russ Phillips, secured first place in the 55-59 age group and an overall 10th place finish with only two years of experience in the sport under his belt. "I was always a runner and when I experienced my first aquathlon I was intrigued by the sport. The triathlon community in the UAE is unique and very welcoming which encouraged me to do more events. Once you do your first triathlon you want to come back for more."