The World Triathlon Para Championships got the 2022 Championship Finals Abu Dhabi underway on Thursday in Yas Bay waterfront, with twelve titles awarded across the six men’s and women’s categories.
The PTS2, PTS3, PTS4 and PTS5 competitions saw the return of multiple champions looking to retain their titles in what was a highly competitive morning of sporting excellence, with hundreds of inspiring, para triathletes lining up with title hopes.
Jules Ribstein (FRA) set about his task straight from the starter’s horn, while only last year’s revelation, Wim de Paepe (BEL), was able to hang on to the Frenchman’s feet through the 750m swim. Out onto the bike, it was a stellar display from American Mohamed Lahna that saw him claw back brilliant time on the leaders, but it was Spain’s Lionel Morales who was able to find the reserves to battle his way back into second as the 5km run played out. The Belgian in the end took the bronze comfortably as Lahna’s challenge for the medals faded in the heat.
Commenting on his gold win, Ribstein said: “It’s an even better feeling than last year. I felt strong and relaxed, and I was able to race it the way I wanted. I got on top in 2019 and to stay up there is hard. There’s a lot of athletes who want that place, but I led from the swim and throughout the race here, so I’m very happy.’’
In the women’s race it was USA teammates Hailey Danz and Melissa Stockwell setting the early pace in the swim. Spain’s Rakel Mateo Uriarte was a minute back out of the water but dropped back through the 20km bike as Australia’s Anu Francis found her rhythm and started to close in on Stockwell. Danz was flying out in front and had carved out a significant advantage out of T2 that allowed her to manage the run effectively all the way to the tape. Stockwell halved the deficit to the leader and took silver ahead of Francis with the fastest run split of the day.
Nico Van Der Burgt was chasing Spain’s Daniel Molina from the very first strokes of the swim - the two emerging from the water in close contact and the Dutchman then sticking to his rival’s wheel and managing to pass over the latter stages of the 20km ride. Behind them, Colin Wallace (GBR) was edging his way closer to Germany’s Max Gelhaar, but it was never enough to put the bronze in doubt, and after Molina was able to then move back up to Der Burgt and pass him for the decisive time and run to gold, the young German had the race of his life to take bronze.
Molina said: “This venue is fabulous! I am a European champion, now World Champion - and now I’m just thinking of the road to Paris. It is the first time that my class will be at the Paralympics, so I just want to qualify and then dream about becoming a Paralympic champion.”
The women’s race was a straight shootout between Elise Marc of France and Netherlands’ young Sanne Koopman. The French number one regained the title she last won in Lausanne in 2019 after exiting the water over two minutes ahead of her rival and extending the lead with every lap of the bike and run. Koopman took her first World Championship experience in her stride with a big future ahead.
It was a huge day for Andrea Miguelez Ranz for several reasons as she became the PTS4 World Champion. Miguelez had moved up a class after winning the PTS3 here last year. At the end of only her second season in the sport, Miguelez and Megan Richter (GBR) were out of the water together first, only for the Spaniard to fly out of transition and lose the Brit, with USA’s Kelly Elmlinger gaining on the leader. A pulled hamstring meant the American missed out on gold but was able to hold on for silver behind Miguelez, whose teammate, Marta Frances Gomez came home with bronze.
Alexis Hanquinquant of France earned an incredible fifth world title in Abu Dhabi despite the best efforts of teammate Pierre-Antoine Baele, who came away with a hard-earned silver from his first World Championship experience. The defending champion was followed out of the 750m swim by Liam Twomey (AUS) before Baele’s bike skills quickly hauled him right into contention. Jeremy Peacock (AUS) was going well in third after Japan’s Hideki Uda looked to chase him down on the bike, but the Australian was able to hold on to bronze in his first World Championships.
Hanquinquant said: “Today was an amazing day. I received my fifth world championship title, and Abu Dhabi has been a great place to compete. I managed to put together a good swim, good bike, and a good run. The Paris Test Event is a big goal for 2023, as well as Pontevedra in Spain, but right now it’s time for a holiday after a lot of hard work!”
Canadian Stefan Daniel was able to put his injury woes behind him and get back on top of the world in Abu Dhabi with a trademark lightning-fast run to take the men’s PTS5 title. The 2019 Champion had been on a long road back to full fitness and was out of the water behind Brazil’s Ronan Cordeiro and Germany’s Martin Schulz, but he was able to navigate his way to the front on the 20km bike and then get a grip on the rest of the field with the fastest 5km split. A brilliant run from last year’s winner Chris Hammer saw the American slice through the field to win bronze.
“That feels good,” said a relieved Daniel afterwards. “I’ve had a tough couple of years with injuries so I’m just grateful to be back and to make it through the season healthy. I didn’t put any pressure on myself and was able to enjoy it.’’
Grace Norman may have been nursing an illness ahead of the women’s race, but the American showed no signs of being out of sorts on the course once she was out of the water and onto the bike, passing Claire Cashmore (GBR) to assume a lead she would never relinquish. For Cashmore, it was an emotional silver knowing teammate George Peasgood was watching from hospital, while Kamylle Frenette of Canada took home the bronze.
Organised by Abu Dhabi Sports Council and World Triathlon, the competition strengthens Abu Dhabi’s position as a global sporting destination. Located within 8 hours’ flying time for two-thirds of the world’s population, the emirate is perfectly situated to welcome athletes, media, federations, and spectators alike to the pinnacle of the sport.
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