- Defending champions Rachel Klamer and Henri Schoeman to return, alongside World Champions Vicky Holland and Mario Mola
- New Elite Mixed Relay Event added for the first time
- Event set to host the first sports competition of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019
- Emiratis to have participation fee waivered
- Amateur participation numbers up on 2018. Junior participation numbers up by 199%
- ITU’s World Triathlon Series Season-opener renamed Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi
The Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019 today announced several of the star triathletes competing in this year’s edition. Last year’s defending champion from South Africa, Henri Schoeman will go head-to-head with the current World Champion, Mario Mola from Spain in the men’s race. In the women’s, Abu Dhabi’s 2018 winner, the Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer will face-off against current World Champion, Vicky Holland from the UK and world no. 2 from America, Katie Zaferes.
Each March sees the launch of ITU’s global World Triathlon Series here in the Capital with 110 of the world’s best triathletes descending on Yas Island in their bid to secure precious Olympic qualifying points and start their season in the best possible fashion. And returning champion Schoeman is just one of those athletes. Ever since Schoeman won the Bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, he has gone from strength to strength including dominating the field in Abu Dhabi in 2018, and collecting gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Contemplating his position as defending champion, Schoeman said: “I can’t wait to get back to Abu Dhabi. Everything clicked into place last year – I led the race from start to end so of course, I have great memories of the race and winning in Abu Dhabi. That win led to me taking gold at the Commonwealth Games in Australia – it would be great to start my 2019 in the same fashion! It’s taken plenty of work and sacrifice to get to where I am today – so it’s satisfying when things fall into place like they did in Abu Dhabi. I’m excited to battle it out on the blue carpet once again in March!”
Ladies’ defending champion Rachel Klamer is also looking for a repeat performance in 2019 on Yas Island. Another win in Abu Dhabi would make her the first repeat ladies champion, and ahead of March it is clear that she is confident of her chances: “There’s no denying that the race in Abu Dhabi last year will always hold a special place in my heart – after all, it was my first WTS win! I love the course here in Abu Dhabi, and Yas Island is an awesome backdrop for a triathlon. I’m excited to be competing here once again in March, and hope that the cheers from the Abu Dhabi crowd are just as loud, if not louder!”
However, hot on Klamer’s heels will be last season’s overall champion, Vicky Holland. Like Schoeman, Holland has seen her form improve in recent years, having first secured a Bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the coveted World Champion title in 2018.
Having never won in Abu Dhabi she’ll be determined to start her season in style on Yas Island: “2018 was a massive season for me – World Champion! Wow! But despite finishing on a high, I can’t sit back and think I’ve ticked all the boxes: I’m hoping to kick-off 2019 with a strong performance that will set me up for another great season. I’ll be doing everything I can to defend my World Championship title, and of course secure qualification for my third Olympic Games. Now that we’re well into our Olympic qualifying period, I’m expecting an incredible field at WTS Abu Dhabi – the best of the best will be lining up alongside me on the start line, and we’ll all be gunning for the win!”
Perhaps somebody feeling less pressure is Spaniard Mario Mola, one of the most vibrant triathletes on the circuit is returning to Abu Dhabi seeking his third title in the Capital. The three-time World Champion however, has never won since the event has been held in Yas Marina, and will be looking to finally rectify this in 2019: “I’ve won twice in Abu Dhabi – but I haven’t quite managed to get the top spot since the race moved to Yas Island. I’m hoping 2019 will be the year that I conquer the Yas Island course, and get my hands on an Abu Dhabi hat-trick! Starting the year with a good race is always a great confidence boost for the upcoming season, so I look forward to having a good performance in Abu Dhabi and to building from there.”
His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, which hosts the annual event, said: “In 2014, Marisol and her team at the ITU, along with our delivery team Worldsport, joined us in a vision – to bring the very best of triathlon to Abu Dhabi. Five years later, and I am delighted to tell you that we have hosted four successful World Triathlon Series events, welcoming the world’s best triathletes alongside 10,000 amateur triathletes of all ages. Not only that, but Abu Dhabi has also been awarded the host venue for the 2022 ITU Grand Final. To see our vision become a reality is testament to the hard-work that we have put in, alongside the ITU, the UAE Triathlon Federation, Daman and many other valued stakeholders.
“We have consistently attracted triathlon’s biggest names, and I’m delighted that 2019 is no different. The handful of athletes revealed today is just the tip of what is set to be the strongest athlete field ever seen in the Capital,” said Al Awani. “We are also delighted to welcome our new headline sponsor Daman, who has arguably done more than any other corporate in inspiring the nation to improve their personal lives by taking up exercise.”
Khaled Al Fahim, President of the UAE Triathlon Federation, was also present today. Looking to encourage further Emirati participation, he said: “We’ve already got 50 Emiratis signed up to race in the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi which equates to 5% of the field, but of course, we want more. Our overarching vision is to prepare our athletes to eventually compete in the Olympic Games. To support that vision - we will cover the cost of all Emiratis who want to participate in this race, to allow them to experience a race of world-class standards, right here on our doorstep.”
Also announced today was that Abu Dhabi will host the Elite Mixed Relay for the first time. This all-new format of triathlon racing sees a team of 4 elite athletes (2 men, 2 women); complete a fast and furious relay race – each athlete completing a 300m swim, 6.6km bike and 1km run – before tagging in their teammate. As well as making its debut in Abu Dhabi, the Mixed Relay will also debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – celebrating triathlon as one of most inclusive and gender-equal sports in the world.
Commenting on the addition of the Elite Mixed Relay ahead of this year’s event, Marisol Casado, President of the ITU and International Olympic Committee Member, added: “We have witnessed Abu Dhabi grow into a committed and iconic triathlon destination, and I’m sure the addition of the highly exciting Elite Mixed Relay event will be welcomed enthusiastically by the crowds here, especially given the vibrant mix of nationalities in the UAE! The Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is now the largest and most inclusive triathlon in the region which exactly mirrors the core values that we stand for at the ITU.”
The fifth edition of the event is set to attract participants and visitors in record numbers, and spectators will be particularly thrilled by the news that the very best triathletes will be competing on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Over the two-day event, it is expected that 110 elite triathletes will compete for a total prize purse of $200,000 an increase of $50,000 from the previous year, alongside over 2,500 amateur triathletes.
This year’s triathlon, which will be held at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit, was recently renamed as the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. The deal means that Daman is now the event’s headline sponsor. Furthermore, the national health insurance company continues in its mission to grow healthy communities across the UAE, by once again offering the Daman Challenge – a three-month training programme to prepare athletes of all fitness levels and experience for the triathlon.
That said the overall amateur participation numbers are currently up by 19%, while the junior participation is up by 199%, compared to this time last year for the 2018 edition; the event is on track to sell out all the amateur races.
Dr. Michael Bitzer, CEO of Daman added: “Triathlon has played an important role in putting the UAE on the global map, driving tourism as well as improving the health of not just the UAE residents who participate, but those are inspired by them. This is why Daman supports these events and makes an effort of encouraging as many people to get involved which is what we aim to achieve through The Daman Challenge. We are really pleased to see the number of amateur and first-timer participation going up year-on-year, and hope that they motivate others to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.”
This year’s event is also set to become the most inclusive in history, as athletes participating in March’s Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are set to compete. The triathlon category for the 2019 World Games will be integrated into the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, marking the first sports competition of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Thirty three Special Olympics athletes from 15 nations are registered to compete, including two athletes from the Special Olympics UAE team.
Commenting on the partnership, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 CEO, Peter Wheeler, said: “We’re excited that the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi will be the first competitive event of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, which will feature 7,500 athletes representing more than 190 nations. By integrating these two iconic events, we will create a truly unified triathlon that demonstrates the power of inclusion. This will be a wonderful opportunity for athletes participating in the World Games to experience their sport in the professional setting of a world championship and to race amongst some of the highest performers in the sport. At the same time, this will allow ITU’s top triathletes to meet the determined - our inspiring Special Olympics athletes - and to enjoy watching them demonstrate their extraordinary talent on a global stage. We are delighted to be working with Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the ITU to make the vision of this unified event a reality.”
For those interested in entering, or for more information, visit: www.abudhabi.triathlon.org