World Triathlon Abu Dhabi returns in March with newer categories and top names in the fray. ITU president and International Olympic Committee member Marisol Casado was excited as she announced the introduction of the Elite Mixed Relay for the fifth edition.
"It will make its debut in the Tokyo Olympics 2020. This will make this event the most inclusive triathlon in the region," she said during the press conference.
Marisol said that event will offer 'maximum' Olympic qualification points to the winners.
There will be no dearth for feisty action as defending champion Henri Schoeman and World No. 1 Mario Mola will fight it out in men's event whereas 2018 winner Rachel Klamer will face-off with world champion Vicky Holland in women's category on Yas Island.
Also, 26-year-old Emirati athlete Faris Al Zaabi, who is training in Spain, will represent the UAE. Then there will be 39-year-old Rohit Verma from India who urges everyone not to put 'age limit on dreams'.
UAE Triathlon Federation president Khaled Al Fahim noted there will be an increased participation from locals. "We have some 50 Emiratis who have registered so far. There is a rise in number from 2 per cent to 5 per cent now but we are looking at higher numbers. We will cover the cost of all Emiratis who want to participate in this race," he said and pinned hopes on Faris Al Zaabi and said an Olympic medal was the ultimate goal.
Abu Dhabi Sports Council General Secretary Aref Al Awani said that the Capital will also host the 2022 ITU Grand Final. He also added that the ITU's World Triathlon series season-opener has been renamed Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi.
Apart from the mixed relay, there will be a new super sprint age group race category for amateurs. There's elite race for men and women. Then there are kids and junior duathlon, junior super sprint, team and individual categories. There is a one-km family run open to all. There will be first-ever sports competition of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 as few athletes will take part in the race.
All the events will be held on March 8 and 9, and will see 110 elite triathletes vie for $200,000 alongside over 2,500 amateur triathletes.
By Ashwani Kumar
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