This weekend, 250 aspiring young triathletes converged on Yas Island to participate in the largest triathlon in the region. The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi's junior races, aimed at youngsters between the ages of 5 and 15, saw hundreds compete and get the unique opportunity of meeting seven-time World Champion, Javier Gomez, and professional Arab triathlete, Omar Nour.
Yas Island sparkled with budding talent for the junior events as hundreds participated in five different race categories: Mini 1km, 1km run; Kids Duathlon, 3km cycle and a 500m run; Junior Duathlon, 6km cycle and 1 km run; Junior Triathlon Super Sprint, 400m swim, 10km cycle and a 2.5km run and Schools Sprint Triathlon, 750m swim, 20km bike and a 5km run.
"It was fantastic to watch hundreds of young hopefuls aspiring to follow in the footsteps of the sport's greatest triathletes, many of whom will be racing this weekend," said Khalid Al Qubaisi, Director of Marketing and Communication, Abu Dhabi Sports Council. "The 100% increase in numbers since our 2015 debut event shows that there is clearly a huge appetite for triathlon amongst youngsters in the UAE and it is brilliant to see them taking up the sport with so much excitement and passion.”
Fourteen-year-old Kai Boggon clinched a gold medal in the Junior Triathlon Super Sprint race. Travelling with his family and coach all the way from the UK to participate in this race he was ecstatic to make it to the top of the podium.
“I started doing triathlons when I was nine-years-old. I was always a good runner and a swimmer so one day my dad was like why don't you try doing a triathlon so that's how I was introduced to the sport. I got hooked and participated in a number of events since then. However, this is my first ITU World Triathlon junior event and what an experience it was! I trained hard for this event; I clocked in an average of three hours daily," said Kai.
"The sense of accomplishment I felt when I crossed that finish line was extraordinary. When I first heard about this event I was keen to give it a shot and winning it is just like a dream come true."
Joining Kai on the podium is 14-year-old Abdulrahman Mubarak who secured second place in the Junior Triathlon Super Sprint. "I started out as a swimmer and participated in many Asian and Gulf competitions. My dad suggested I give triathlon a shot so here I am. I trained for four months and I was really excited to complete my first one. I didn't know what to expect so coming in second was amazing," said the Bahraini junior. "My advice for other kids who have never done a triathlon before and might be intimidated by the sport is to just try it once and see how wonderful it is."
Elsewhere in the field was British 11-year-old Amelia Catherine Bennett who earned the gold medal for the second consecutive year. “I've been participating in this event from the start. I started competing in triathlons since I was seven-years-old. I won the race last year as well and I am glad I got the same results this year. I’d like to say to other kids who might be too scared to join to always try something new and believe in yourself. You can do it!"
Speaking at swim start of the junior races, five-time ITU World Champion and Olympic medallist, Javier Gomez commented: "It's awesome to see the enthusiasm on the faces of all the young triathletes today. I did my first triathlon at the age of 15, and I wish I'd had the chance to start younger, so it is great to see Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the ITU World Triathlon giving these kids the chance to participate at such a young age!"
The men's race takes place on Saturday, 4 March, at 15:55 where the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi's top four superstars return to compete for the title. Leading the charge is 2016 ITU World Champion, Spain's Mario Mola; compatriot and World Number three, Fernando Alarza; Portugal's Olympian Joao Silva and World Number five South Africa's Richard Murray. The impressive line up also stars South Africa's Olympic bronze medallist and World Number four Henri Schoeman and crowd favourite, Javier Gomez.
For those wanting to cheer on their friends and family members participating in the age group Maxi (07:00am start) and Olympic distance (08:00am start), the bustling Race Village will be open from 05:30 to 18:30 and will feature a grandstand, bike park, a range of refreshment kiosks and a kids entertainment zone.
Saturday’s elite races will be broadcast live on Abu Dhabi Sports TV and globally from 15:45 to 18:30 local time, and a live web stream will be available on www.triathlonlive.tv.