It’s community that makes this event special

With the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019 just around the corner, find out why it’s not all about the big names and how the community can get involved.

On 8th and 9th March, Abu Dhabi will play host to the first of nine events as part of the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) World Triathlon Series in 2019.

The Abu Dhabi triathlon has grown in stature in recent years, attracting the biggest names in the sport to the UAE, and the capital will be the host for the Grand Final of the ITU World Triathlon Series, the biggest event in the sport, in 2022.

This year renamed Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019, the competition will see some of the world’s best triathletes swim, cycle and run to compete for glory alongside a growing community of amateur competitors, including children and people of determination.

The race is on

The ITU World Triathlon Series event will once again take place on Yas Island, making use of the world-class facilities on offer and giving spectators around the world a glimpse of our city on screens.

As the opening event of the season, the competition is something of a who’s who in the world of triathlons.

A total of 19 of the world’s top 20 male triathletes are ready to take on the Yas Island course, including last year’s Men’s Elite champion Henri Schoeman and current world champion Mario Mola.

Making his first ITU World Triathlon appearance, Britain’s up-and-coming Alex Lee, who recently won the 2019 Discovery Triathlon World Cup in Cape Town, will also be looking to make an impact.

In the Female Elite category, eight of the world’s top ten will be in Abu Dhabi including world champion Vicky Holland, world number two Katie Zaferes and eight-time world champion Flora Duffy.

But it’s not just about the world-class athletes taking part as the event aims to encourage amateurs and even children to sign up, too.

Participation in the event has increased by 19 percent overall this year and the junior event will see a 199 percent increase in participation compared to 2018.

While not every competitor will manage the Olympic distance of a 1,500m swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run, there are a number of categories and levels catering to a range of people whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned competitor.

New this year is the Elite Mixed Relay category, which will see teams of four elite athletes – comprising two men and two women – tag team it to the finish line. The new format is making its debut here in Abu Dhabi before having its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020.

The event will also include a para-athlete race, comprising six categories to help accommodate any individual who wishes to take part.

All events including the elite and amateur races will take place at the same venue, allowing the community to literally follow in the footsteps of the professionals as they swim Yas Marina, then cycle and run around Yas Marina Circuit.

Family fun

Not competing? Not to worry, there’s still plenty to do and see at the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019.

The Event Village – which is free and open to everyone – will once again host a range of activities for families visiting over race weekend.

The Kids Zone, with an inflatable obstacle course and ball pit, will help little ones burn off some energy while parents unwind in the Picnic Zone and Beanbag Chill Zone with live music and entertainment.

Active families can support not-for-profit charity Team Angel Wolf in the 1km Family Fun Run and work up a sweat even if they’re not taking part in the triathlon.

A host of pop-up shops, food vendors and activities will also be on hand to keep energy levels up and build the atmosphere as the event rolls on.

Age is just a number

As the oldest individual to take part in Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019, 72-year-old Scottish triathlete Douglas Wood has competed in his fair share of triathlons from Canada to China. Here he talks to us about magical moments in the sport and watching the world’s best compete in Abu Dhabi.

Tell us about your history with triathlons…

I’ve been doing triathlons for around 20 years and have taken part in the Abu
Dhabi triathlon since 2011 – before the event became part of the ITU World Triathlon Series.

I’ve also taken part in a number of world and European age group events, which have taken me to the US, Canada, New Zealand, China and various locations in Europe.

In comparison, Abu Dhabi certainly stands up well against the other events I’ve taken part in across the world and I love coming here to compete.

I’m currently the Scottish champion for my age group so I’m quite active domestically as well as coming here to visit my daughter and take part in the Abu Dhabi event.

What is it about triathlons that you enjoy so much?

I took part in a triathlon on Al Hudayriat Island recently where we started early in the morning and as we ran from the beach into the water the sun was just rising and it was absolutely magical. These are the moments that the sport offers you, particularly here in Abu Dhabi, that you can really savour.

Last year, my son-in-law, grandson and I all took part in the ITU event – three generations of our family. It was an amazing experience and there aren’t many sports where that kind of thing is actually possible, all taking part at the same time in the same arena with the same facilities, which are also being used by the elite competitors. It really is an exhilarating experience.

What makes triathlon an accessible sport?

Most people can swim, cycle and run, and triathlon is just bringing these things together so there’s no barrier to people trying it out. The sport is structured to cater to varying age groups and abilities, so there are plenty of opportunities and events in the UAE for people to give it a go.

Once the race is underway you really just get swept along. Not everyone is an elite athlete or super fit; there’s always a range, and you will find others alongside you that are much the same as yourself.

I think most people would find that they surprise themselves with what they can do and would get a real buzz from it.

What do you enjoy most about the Abu Dhabi triathlon?

Seeing the elite athletes performing up close is incredible. You learn so much just by watching them and it’s a very different experience to just watching it on the TV. You don’t realise the speed that they are going at and the effort that they are putting in. You can also appreciate the technique required to be an elite athlete and that’s really quite inspiring
for competitors like myself.

Need to know

What: Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019
When: 8th & 9th March
Where: Yas Island
Tickets: Race prices vary, free entry to Event Village
Visit: abudhabi.triathlon.org

WORDS Colin Armstrong

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