Imagine sharing the same football pitch as Lionel Messi, putting on the same green as Rory Mcllroy or exchanging rallies with Roger Federer. What might seem like a distant dream can become a brilliant reality for athletics fans as the ITU World Triathlon Series gets on its marks for the fourth straight year in Abu Dhabi next month.
The sporting spectacular – which pushes competitors to the absolute limit in the disciplines of cycling, swimming and running – will again feature a unique field of elite athletes, club competitors and budding amateurs alike, all going for glory on a brand-new course in Yas Island.
The chance to follow in the footsteps (and tyre tracks) of some of the world’s very best sets the World Triathlon Series apart.
This year’s extravaganza on March 2 and 3 will boast a stellar field of triathlon greats – led by Britain’s superstar siblings Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.
Double Olympic champion Alistair and Jonathan, who himself scooped bronze and silver respectively in the London and Rio Olympics, have dominated this endurance event for a decade. But they will face stern competition in the capital from a host of top contenders for the World Series season-opener, including two-time defending champion Mario Mola of Spain and homegrown hero, Emirati star Faris Al Zaabi.
The 2017 women’s champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda will also be defending her crown against a top field including last year’s Abu Dhabi winner, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt.
This year’s race will also make history as for the first time ever it will feature Para-triathletes, including Team GB’s Olympic, World and European Champion Andy Lewis and Mohamed Lahna of Morocco, the bronze medallist at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
The race meeting will also be a test event for the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, which will see more than 7,000 athletes descend on the city next March.
All ages and abilities will be welcome to lace up their running boots, slip on their swimming goggles and get saddled up for success, too.
There are three course types available: the Sprint is comprised of a 750m swim, a 20km bike ride and a 5km run, the Olympic is a 1,500m swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run and for those wanting the biggest challenge, the Middle features a 1,900m swim, 90km bike ride and an energy-sapping 21km run.
The ITU World triathlon Abu Dhabi 2018 will also see the return of the Junior Triathlon – a fun event aimed at encouraging youngsters to get active – which hosts race categories for children aged five to 15.
For juniors looking to take on a triathlon, there are four entry categories for the 2018 edition: the Mini 1km run (kids aged five to eight), the Duathlon (3km cycle and 500m run for seven to 11-year-olds), the Junior Duathlon (6km cycle and 1km run for 12 to 13-year-olds and a 6km cycle and 1.5km run for 14 to 15-year-olds) and the Junior Triathlon Super Sprint (a 400km swim, 10km cycle and 2.5km run for 12 to 15-year-olds).
Alistair Brownlee says: “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.”
His Excellency Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council adds: “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.
He continues: “This particular event is special because it welcomes 120 of the world’s best triathletes to race alongside seasoned amateurs, first-timers and children. I’m thrilled to announce that four of the most exciting triathletes in the world are confirmed to race in Abu Dhabi, where I’ll also be under-taking my first ever triathlon and I hope to see you all beside me on the start line in March.”
From Dhs60. Fri Mar 2-Sat Mar 3. Yas Marina, Yas Island, www.abudhabi.triathlon.org.