The 2016 ITU World Champion and two-time ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi winner, Mario Mola, has thrown his hat in the ring for the World Triathlon Series season-opener on 3 and 4 March on Yas Island.
The formidable Spaniard will line-up against Rio 2016 Olympic Games bronze medallist Henri Schoeman, and two-time Olympian Richard Murray, to vie for the coveted Abu Dhabi title next month at the head of a 60-strong men's field on the all-new Yas Island course.
"The last two years in Abu Dhabi have been fantastic for me and of course, I’m hoping to make it a hat-trick in 2017!" said the 26-year-old Spaniard. "However, this year we will be competing on a completely different course – for me, a new course means an exciting adventure and the thrill of unpredictability. Yas Island is certainly different from the Abu Dhabi Corniche so I will be flying in a few days early to familiarise myself with the entire island. As triathletes, we are always aspiring to get better and this new course will surely push us to get creative."
Mola is thrilled to join fellow triathlete and training partner, Murray, on the UAE capital start line this March. Both triathlon heavyweights are considered amongst the fiercest runners in the circuit. Murray had the fastest 10-kilometre split time in Rio, and Mola holds the record for the fastest split time in ITU history, recorded at the Grand Final in Chicago in 2015.
Mola's third ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is set to be a close fought race with a highly-seasoned line-up starring three of the top five triathletes in the world all gearing up for the first race of the season.
“The line-up for this year’s ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is shaping up to be truly sensational, including both the male and female 2016 ITU World Champions, Mario Mola and Flora Duffy.” said Nouf Ali, Events Section Head of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, host of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi.
“This is an incredible opportunity to watch the stars of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games go head-to-head, right here in Abu Dhabi. And for those looking to lace up their running shoes, the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi offers a unique chance to race on the same course as world champions, with races for amateur triathletes of all ages.” added Nouf.
Mola started out at a young age as a swimmer in his hometown, Palma de Mallorca in Spain. He was introduced to the multi-discipline sport in 2005 when he first rode a racing bike. Since his debut, he has participated in countless national and international triathlon championships, and by 2012, the Spanish powerhouse had amassed several top-10 positions across both the ITU World Triathlon Series and the European Championships, and was ready to tackle the London 2012 Olympics.
"Growing up I've always dreamt of making it to the Olympics so my first experience in London, and then four years later Rio, will stay with me for a long time," said Mola who placed 19th and 8th in the respective Games. "After London my focus then shifted to clinching a medal in Rio and I worked hard those four years. I can't say I wasn't disappointed with my eighth place finish but this is triathlon; you can't plan every detail. The most important part is that I immensely enjoyed the journey and I am now looking ahead to Tokyo."
Mola went on earn the 2016 ITU World Champion crown a month later adding to his impressive list of ITU results. "After placing second in the rankings for two years running I was eager to win," said Mola who for the Series final in Mexico, overtook his main rival, Jonny Brownlee, who had succumbed to heat exhaustion just short of the finish line and won the Series title by just four points. "I didn't want to win this way but when I saw the opportunity I fought hard until the last second and placed fifth."
"Overall, it has been a period of learning and growth for me," commented Mola who is eying up the Abu Dhabi podium. "My advice to anyone considering trying out the sport is to enjoy it. You can't get better at something you don't enjoy and, even though on first instance triathlon seems intimidating, I think it is one of the most beginner-friendly sports there is," concluded Mola.
As well as the elite field, the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi has amateur race categories suited to all ages and abilities, and will welcome 3,500 amateur athletes to take part in the two-day event. The race categories, which can be completed as an individual or as part of a relay team, include:
- Sprint: 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
- Olympic: 1,500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run
- Maxi: 1,500m swim, 80km bike, 20km run
The event also sees the return of the Junior Triathlon - a fun event aimed at encouraging youngsters to get active – which hosts race categories for children aged 5 years and up:
- Mini 1km: 1km run for 5 – 8 year olds
- Kids Duathlon: 3km cycle and a 500m run for 7 – 9 year olds and 10 – 11 year olds
- Junior Duathlon: 6km cycle and 1 km run for 12 – 13 year olds, and a 6km cycle and a 1.5 km run for 14 – 15 year olds
- Junior Triathlon Super Sprint: 400m swim, 10km cycle and a 2.5km run for 12 – 13 years and 14 – 15 years
- Schools Sprint Triathlon: 750m swim, 20km bike and a 5km run which can be completed as part of a team (age 12 years and up) or individually (age 16 years and up)
Online registrations for the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi are now open to the public via the race website, AbuDhabi.Triathlon.org. Starting from just AED 450 for adults and AED 60 for children, race spots are quickly filling-up and organisers are urging those interested to sign-up soon before it reaches capacity.