Superstars of elite triathlon will descend on the capital of the Emirates this March to kick off the 2018 World Triathlon Series in Abu Dhabi 2018, with race organisers confirming that some of the most highly decorated athletes in the sport will compete between 2-3 March on Yas Island.
Triathlon’s most recognizable duo, the Brownlee Brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, will both participate in the race. The fearsome duo, who have dominated the sport for over 10 years, provided one of the most inspiring moments in sporting history, when Alistair helped younger brother Jonathan across the finish line in ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final 2016 in Cozumel, Mexico.
But it won’t be easy for them to claim the title in the Yas Marina circuit. They will have to face current World Champion, Spaniard Mario Mola, who will be accompanied in Abu Dhabi by his fellow triathlete Fernando Alarza, fifth in the world rankings last season.
Other ones to watch will be, most likely, the South African duo of Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman, as well as the breakout star of the year in 2017, Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt.
Commenting on his return to Abu Dhabi, Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist Jonathan Brownlee said: “Abu Dhabi is an awesome location for the season-opening WTS race. I raced on the Corniche course back in 2015, and am excited to check out the new course on Yas Island. The weather in March in Abu Dhabi will be perfect, a far cry from the conditions we have experienced in the UK this winter. Everyone knows that we both give 110% when we race and Abu Dhabi will be no different. We’ll definitely be putting on a show for the crowds in March!”
Jonathan’s brother, two-time Olympic gold medallist Alistair added: “I’m definitely keen to get out there and race in March. The new course on the F1 track looks really good for a sprint distance race. I’m looking forward to toeing the line against a top field in Abu Dhabi to see where I am after coming back from injury. It’s no secret that I’ll be looking to be competitive, especially with the Commonwealth Games coming up in April.”
In the women’s field, the star of last year’s race, Andrea Hewitt will also return to Yas Island this spring to once again compete for the WTS Abu Dhabi title. Hewitt contested another of the most memorable finishes of the ITU World Triathlon Series calendar in the 2017 event against Jodie Stimpson, with Hewitt pipping defending champion, Stimpson to first place by a matter of steps on the iconic blue carpet. Hewitt will once again toe the line in a bid to pick up the first honours of the 2018 season, between 2-3 March.
Hoping to retain her WTS Abu Dhabi title, Andrea Hewitt commented; “I’m delighted to be returning to Abu Dhabi this year, a place that holds some amazing memories for me following my first-place finish last year. The 2017 race was a turning point for me both personally and professionally. I had trained so hard, went into the race in good form and knew that I had a chance of doing well. To pick up the gold-medal, the way I did, it was an overwhelming sense of emotion. I think that showed at the finish line. That victory would not have been possible, had it not been for the fantastic support I received from family, friends and the triathlon community. I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s race holds and with a bit of luck, I’ll be on the podium again!”.
It will not be easy for the kiwi to fight again for the victory in Abu Dhabi, as the women’s field will be one of the strongest ever. Two-time world champion, Bermudian Flora Duffy, will also be toeing the start line, along with the full pódium of last season: Aussie Ashleigh Gentle and American Katie Zaferes.
The brits will bring along a powerfull squad, with Jodie Stimpson, Non Stanford and Vicky Holland, while the Americans will be present with Summer Cook, Chelsea Burns, Renee Tomlin and Taylor Spivey. Dutch Rachel Klamer or Japanese Ai Ueda and Juri Ide will be, for sure, among the ones to watch closely.
A mixture of elite, amateur (age-grouper) and junior triathletes will race across the picturesque island, taking in some of the most spectacular landmarks in the UAE. The elite and age-grouper courses will see triathletes swim in the waters of Yas Marina, before taking to the tracks of Yas Marina Circuit, the host of the Formula 1 TM Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The iconic bike course then takes competitors onto the streets of Yas Island, cycling past the likes of the stunning Yas Links Golf Course; Ferrari World, the home of the world’s fastest rollercoaster; and Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi’s largest retail experience. For the final showpiece, competitors will cross the finish line on the famous ITU blue carpet on Yas Marina Circuit’s helipad.
Abu Dhabi has become the leading regional hub for triathlon, with over 3,500 triathletes, including 120 of the world’s best elites and 500 juniors expected to take to take part in the 2018 event.
Speaking at the press conference, His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council said; “Triathlon is a sport which encompasses everything we work hard to achieve here at Abu Dhabi Sports Council – it welcomes people from all walks of life – irrespective of age, gender, nationality or ability - to search for that unique sense of achievement.”