Triathlon races into a bright future in the UAE following success of the third edition of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi.
Last weekend the UAE capital witnessed a sensational race display on the iconic Yas Island, as the World Triathlon Series season opener crowned seven-time World Champion Javier Gomez and world number one, Andrea Hewitt as Abu Dhabi men’s and women’s Champion respectively. Lining up on the same challenging course as the world's best were over 2,400 amateur athletes representing 52 countries and as young as five-years-old up to 74-years-old.
Speaking following the success of the third edition of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, Khaled Al Fahim, Chairman of the UAE Triathlon Federation, said hosting major events in the Emirates is playing a significant role in the development of the sport amongst local communities.
"A number of regional and international triathlon events have been established in the UAE in recent years. Events such as the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi provide a great platform to demonstrate the UAE's burgeoning credentials as a triathlon centre of excellence which we hope will continue to spur interest in the sport locally."
"It is important that we work together with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to invest in the sport from the grassroots levels up targeting both amateur athletes and youngsters. With the growing popularity of the junior events we are aiming to triple the number of junior participants by 2019," said the Chairman, Khaled Al Fahim.
Numbers for the junior races have more than doubled compared to the first race in 2015, with 300 tiny triathletes toeing the line last weekend – a true reflection of the rapid growth of the sport from grassroots level up.
Furthermore, the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi saw more amateur athletes than ever move up from Sprint to Olympic distance racing, with the latter now being the most popular race category, comprising of 50% of the amateur field.
"Our role is to take triathlon far and wide in the UAE and reach out to youngsters, first timers, women and anyone who can greatly benefit from this wonderful sport." added Al Fahim.
Triathlon is the fastest growing Olympic sport in the world, with global participation growing on average 16% each year. Organisers of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi are targeting even more aggressive growth for the season-opener, aiming to see close to 3,500 participants descend on Yas Island for the 2019 edition – a 20% year-on-year growth in participation.
Al Fahim credited the pioneering approach of the host partner, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, in fostering regional triathlon popularity. General Secretary, H.E. Aref Al Awani, further stressed the powerful impact the pinnacle of world triathlon has on both the emirate and on mass participation, and commented: “We are never complacent and you can never take your foot off the pedal with sport – we have to sustain the momentum. We aim to support and help nurture sporting excellence and create local sporting heroes who participate and succeed on the international stage. These will be role models for our population. They reinforce the value of sport and engender significant national pride.”
Abu Dhabi Sports Council has played a pivotal role in the growing popularity of the sport. Annually, the emirate sees the sport thriving across all platforms from the grassroots level up to the elite and an increase in the number of accessible training facilities and triathlon clubs. The drive has helped develop the sport in the UAE and attract first timers and children.
"Triathlon is one of the most dynamic sports out there and it is a flourishing sport due to how varied it is. With a UAE Triathlon Federation set in motion, the sport will reach out to even more local communities in the country which means more people will get to try out this wonderful sport," said Marisol Casado, ITU President. "Triathlon has a strong appeal to many around the world because it combines three disciplines and always poses for an exciting challenge. I know the ITU World Triathlon elite athletes will inspire more people to participate. I am looking forward to seeing even larger numbers take to the start line in the future editions of the Abu Dhabi event."
This weekend has seen 2,408 age group athletes take to the start line, 300 juniors, 92 elite triathletes fight for the Abu Dhabi title, 200 event support volunteers hand out 3,000 pieces of fruit on the finish line and more than 10,000 litres of water to participants. The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi also welcomed 50 local and international media and was broadcasted via the ITU distribution platform to over 500 million homes in 120 countries through Abu Dhabi Sports TV and TriathlonLive.