Defending International Triathlon Union World Series champions Javier Gomez and Gwen Jorgensen are among the leading lights in a star-studded cast competing in the IPIC World Triathlon Abu Dhabi this weekend.
The duo are just two of many top triathletes who will be taking to the water and track for the opening round of the ITU World Triathlon Series.
The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon has been taking place from 2010 until 2014, but 2015 is the first year it will officially become part of the ITU circuit.
Also, for the first time, the event will feature an Olympic distance option, with many of the world’s top triathletes keen to gain as many points as possible in an Olympic qualifying year ahead of Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 which adds an added incentive to this weekend’s event.
As well as Spaniard Gomez and American Jorgensen, Olympic bronze medallist Jonathan Brownlee will be among the star names appearing on the capital’s Corniche.
Had great fun riding around the Yas Marina F1 circuit tonight. Just need to drive around it now! pic.twitter.com/e1xcKAKI1c
— Jonathan Brownlee (@jonny_brownlee) March 3, 2015
Brownlee’s older brother Alistair, who won triathlon gold at London 2012, had been due to appear in the UAE but withdrew late on with an ankle injury.
Still, a significant number of the world’s top 10 male and female triathletes have entered the inaugural Abu Dhabi ITU event.
On the men’s side, 2014 ITU WTS champion Gomez, the silver medallist in London, is looking to start his season on a winning note.
“I am delighted to finally be coming down to the UAE to compete in the first ITU race of the year,” said the 31-year-old Spaniard.
“This race will boast the world’s top triathletes – I’m going all in to win.”
With four ITU World Championships under his belt Gomez will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend and will not be resting on his laurels.
“I’d definitely like to get off on the right foot at the first race of the ITU World Triathlon Series because that just sets the mood for the rest of the year,” added the triathlon titan.
The most anticipated triathlon of 2015 will also see one of Gomez’s greatest rivals, Jonathan Brownlee, make a welcome return to Abu Dhabi.
While Alistair has twice previously finished first in the short course race at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon 2013 and 2014, Jonathan, 24, finished third behind Gomez and fellow Spaniard Mario Mola in last season’s overall WTS standings.
“Racing in Abu Dhabi is tough but it’s always an amazing experience and it gets more enjoyable every year,” said the Yorkshire-born star who, like his brother, will be targeting Olympic qualification this year.
“The first race of the year is always important for everyone and it will be interesting to see who is in the best shape and can make the best start to the new season.”
On the women’s side, reigning world champion Jorgensen, 28, is eager to make an impact in Abu Dhabi. “This will be my first time racing in the UAE,” she said.
“I am sure it will be a fantastic experience. I’m looking forward to the first race of the year.”
In 2014 Jorgensen was the first woman in the history of the Series to win four consecutive races and she will be looking to continue that winning streak this year.
“This is the highlight of the ITU World Triathlon Series calendar so don’t miss out on the chance to watch the sport’s biggest names up close on Abu Dhabi’s magnificent course,” said His Excellency Aref Al Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
“Professionals, amateurs and first-timers can all line-up in the same event as world champions and Olympic medallists for what will be a once in a lifetime experience.”
Local Organising Committee Director Iain Banner added: “The exceptional quality of the entry list and participation numbers confirms that Abu Dhabi is the perfect starting event on the ITU World Triathlon Series calendar.
“We have 2,100 age group athletes that have also entered and paid the entry fees, which is a clear indication that the demand for triathlon is growing and interest in the World Series is significant in this region. It’s huge.”
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