The Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019 welcomed a number of the world’s leading elite triathletes to the capital today. World champions Vicky Holland from the UK and Mario Mola from Spain, as well as series contenders Katie Zaferes from the USA stated how ready they are for action ahead of this weekend’s races.
The event on March 8-9, which is the season-opener of the ITU’s Global World Triathlon Series, will welcome the strongest elite field ever witnessed in Abu Dhabi – 112 athletes including 9 of the world’s top 10 females and the full roster of men’s top 10 athletes. The field, representing 27 countries from around the world, is highly decorated with Olympic and World Championship medals. And during today’s press conference, Spain’s Mario Mola spoke ardently about the event and how he’s primed and ready for the start gun: “This is the first race of the year, so I’m hoping to have a solid swim, ride and run. With every season we try to be consistent and this first race is always important: winning here is also very special for me! But that’s the past - I’m now ready and prepared for the future.
“With every race counting towards our total points for the Tokyo Olympics, we must aim for strong finishes to gain maximum points,” continued Mola. “I’m ready to do that here and the weather for the triathlon is ideal. I try to come here several days before the event just to acclimatise and to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be on race day at Yas Marina Circuit.”
Alongside Mola was Vicky Holland from the UK. As the current World Champion, she spoke about the potential pressure felt holding such a title: “Well 2018 was an interesting year for me. Despite falling short of my aim at the Commonwealth Games in April last year, every race after I was getting better and better. The Grand Final race, certainly between myself and Katie (Zaferes) was fantastic for us as athletes but also for spectators too; it was a great way to win the world title.
“So coming in (to Abu Dhabi) as a world champ, the only pressure I feel is on myself!” continued Holland. “It’s great to come in with this title and it’s something I’m really proud of, but I don’t think that will change how I race – I’m focusing on that podium spot once again. Our training remains are the same for all races. I taper down a week or so before the event so I’m firing on all cylinders come race day!”
The Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi will feature five categories: The Elite Individual Men’s and Women’s races, the Elite Mixed Relay Race, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi triathlon race, Age grouper races and Junior races. The Age Grouper races allow amateur triathletes to compete as individuals or as part of a team, across a variety of distances: Super Sprint (400m swim, 10km cycle, 2.5km run) newly launched for 2019; Sprint (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) and Olympic (1,500m swim, 40km cycle, 10km run).
As well as being the largest triathlon in the Middle East, the 2019 event is also set to become the most inclusive in history, as athletes participating in the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are set to compete. Thirty-three Special Olympics athletes from 14 nations are registered, including two athletes from the Special Olympics UAE team. The triathlon event marks the first sports competition of the much-anticipated World Games. Elite athlete Katie Zaferes was bursting with pride to be sharing the blue carpet with these athletes of determination: “I’m super excited to be racing alongside these incredible athletes from all over the world,” explained Zaferes. “Their dedication and passion for our sport is unrivalled, and I’m sure I speak on behalf of all the ITU athletes competing this weekend, that we are honoured to be racing in the same footsteps.
“For everyone coming to see the races this weekend, don’t just cheer these athletes on - be inspired by their passion and use it to make positive steps to get active!”
Two Special Olympics athletes – brothers Micah and Jonah Hambleton – who will represent the UAE in triathlon on Friday, spoke passionately about competing and their training. Micah said: “It’s tough, the training. It’s been fun and it’s great to train together with Jonah.” His brother and fellow teammate Jonah said: “I feel there is a lot more awareness about the Special Olympics and there is lots of love from all the people here in Abu Dhabi. We’ve been training nearly every day for the past nine months and we are ready for the event. We train across Abu Dhabi with our three different coaches, who have been very helpful. Having a family and support network has been brilliant as we still need to study, as well as train!”
Local talent Faisal Al Zaabi was also present during the media Q&A. After turning his full attention to triathlon last year, Al Zaabi spoke not only about the 2019 edition and his participation in it: “I only picked up triathlon two years ago and went full time in August last year, so this is still quite new to me. I moved to Spain so I can fully focus and develop day in day out. It would be a dream to one day toe the line with the athletes here today, but the main aim for me right now is to keep healthy and aim high this weekend.”
As well as Abu Dhabi winning the right to host the ITU Grand Final in 2022, event organisers also announced this year the new name and headline sponsor, Daman. Maissa AlKhafajy, Official Spokesperson and Head of Corporate Communications of National Health Insurance Company - Daman, today said: “We are delighted that this year’s Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi event boasts such a strong elite field. With triathlon’s best of the best competing once again in Abu Dhabi, we wanted to be a part of something that would inspire the UAE to become a fitter, more active place.”
AlKhafajy added: “We expect this year’s elite entries to encourage potential amateur participants to take on the challenge and sign-up. Supporting events that encourage people to get active and improve their physical fitness and overall wellbeing is important to us at Daman, its therefore not a surprise that we are very pleased to see so many already signed up to join these world athletes this weekend.”
The 2019 edition has seen impressive growth in amateur participation numbers, as well as the addition of the Elite Mixed Relay World Series for the first time; this category will make its debut at the Olympics in Tokyo next year. Speaking about the growth of the event and the future of the sport in the UAE, H.E. Aref Hamad Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), said:
“This weekend we are set to host World Champions, 2000 amateur triathletes, 33 Special Olympics World Games athletes and 600 junior athletes - fantastic proof of how inclusive the wonderful sport of triathlon is. I would encourage you all to come along to Yas Marina Circuit this weekend to watch the racing, enjoy the festivities in the Event Village and see how this wonderful sport brings our community together.”
“And of course, we are also looking forward to hosting the ITU’s Grand Final in 2022 – an event where World Champions are crowned in both the elite and amateur categories. The Grand Final will welcome over 10,000 competitors to Abu Dhabi generating significant economic impact for the city, and inspiring the next generation of triathletes from our community. Steps to prepare for the Grand Final have already begun,” continued H.E Al Awani. “This week, together with the ITU we hosted a technical official course at Abu Dhabi Sports Council with a vision to have people from the UAE officiating at the ITU Grand Final in 2022 and beyond.
For more information, visit: www.abudhabi.triathlon.org