Over 2,500 competitors take part across the race weekend at the fourth edition of ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi.
Elite field packed with world-class talent as record numbers competed in season opener.
Abu Dhabi reaffirmed its position as the sporting capital of the Middle East this weekend, after hosting the most inclusive and accessible triathlon in the region’s history. The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, now in its fourth year, saw over 2,500 participants take part across race weekend, including record breaking numbers in the elite field that featured World and Olympic champions, as well as hosting dedicated waves for para-triathletes and Special Olympics athletes.
Friday’s elite races were won by South African Henri Schoeman (Men’s Elite Sprint) and Dutch triathlete, Rachel Klamer (Women’s Elite Sprint). Schoeman made WTS history as only the second man to ever lead each discipline - swim, bike and run - and finish in first place. It was also a race first for Rachel Klamer, who picked up her first ever WTS gold medal.
“This has been the most spectacular triathlon event we have ever hosted in the UAE,” commented His Excellency, Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council. “We have witnessed thousands of enthusiastic participants, as well thousands of proud fans come out in support of their family, friends and sporting heroes. Having these elite athletes in town is hugely influential, and their willingness to participate in workshops – such as the Special Olympics session we hosted with Andrea Hewitt and Omar Nour, meet young children and inspire them to participate in sport is invaluable. It’s thanks to these elites that we continue to see participation numbers increase and the interest in triathlon from the UAE community really is at an all-time high. I am incredibly proud of all the participants and the success we continue to have here, supporting our vision for 2021 of hosting the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final.”
The opening wave on Friday was one of the most inspiring moments of the weekend, as four Special Olympics athletes took to the start line, alongside Team Angel Wolf to compete in what was another first for WTS Abu Dhabi. Hundreds of junior triathletes and duathletes also crossed the finish line on Friday morning, as well as youngsters taking part in the mini 1km, and family 1km fun run – another first for the event.
“This is without a doubt the most inclusive triathlon event the Middle East has ever seen,” added His Excellency. “Triathlon is a unique sport in its abilities to bring people together, irrespective of abilities, age, gender or nationality. We planned this year’s race with a belief that triathlon should be for all - we made accessibility the key focus. It was so inspiring to welcome Special Olympics athletes, alongside para athletes, age group athletes, juniors and professionals - we can safely say the UAE’s triathlon future is looking bright! We must now use this momentum to develop local talent and build on the success of the past four years, creating local sporting heroes who participate and succeed on the international stage.”
Emirati students on National Ambulance’s Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) programme also got a taste of action, attending their first international event. Twelve students supported and worked alongside National Ambulance’s team of Paramedics, Doctors and EMTs in ensuring that both athletes and spectators were looked after and cared for throughout the weekend.
Furthermore, the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2018 showcased its international appeal, with participants from 86 countries taking part. These numbers support the notion that triathlon is the fastest growing Olympic sport in the world, with global participation growing each year.
Commenting on the success of this year’s ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, Kris Gemmell, the General Manager of ITU World Triathlon Series said; “Every year we look forward to opening our World Triathlon Series here in Abu Dhabi – it’s incredibly exciting to see the interest in triathlon grow, both locally and internationally. You can see by the participation numbers across the weekend that there is a thriving triathlon community and the sport is heading in the right direction. We are immensely proud that, together with Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the local organizing committee, we successfully introducing new waves for the 2018 edition as we look to increase the inclusivity of triathlon.”
Abu Dhabi Sports Council has played a pivotal role in the growing popularity of the sport. The emirate now boasts a number of triathlon clubs from the grassroots level up to the elite and has seen an increase in the number of accessible training facilities.
There has also been significant interest from the world’s media, as ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2018 welcomed 25 local and international outlets, with the event broadcast by 12 international broadcasters and to millions in over 120 countries through Abu Dhabi Sports TV and TriathlonLive.