Abu Dhabi to Host ITU World Triathlon Series, ITU World Mixed Relay Series Openers

By USA Triathlon | March 05, 2019, 8:02 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The 2019 ITU World Triathlon Series gets off to an exciting start this Friday, as the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, hosts a fast and furious sprint-distance race. Nine U.S. athletes are set to compete, led by 2018 ITU World Triathlon Series overall silver medalist Katie Zaferes.

The action continues Saturday with the season opener of the ITU World Mixed Relay Series, which showcases the thrilling four-person relay discipline that will debut as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

Daman ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi
The course in Abu Dhabi features a 750-meter swim, 18.9-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run, and is known for high-speed racing with portions of the bike and run taking place on the iconic Formula One circuit. The elite men race first on Friday at 5:06 a.m. ET (2:06 p.m. local time), followed by the elite women at 7:06 a.m. ET (4:06 p.m. local time). Both races will be broadcast live online at triathlonlive.tv, and 2019 season subscriptions are available for purchase.

Five U.S. women will toe the line, highlighted by 2016 U.S. Olympian Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.). Zaferes had a stellar 2018, reaching the podium in six of the eight races on the WTS circuit. She finished third at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia, securing the overall series silver medal behind only Great Britain’s Vicky Holland. Zaferes holds the No. 2 spot on the start list in Abu Dhabi, with Holland occupying the top spot. 

At No. 6 on the start list is Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.). Spivey has one WTS medal under her belt — a silver in Leeds, England, in 2017. She earned six top-10 finishes on the WTS circuit in 2018, including a seventh-place showing at the Grand Final. Her 2018 season was also highlighted by two ITU Triathlon World Cup podiums, including a silver in Cagliari, Italy, and a gold in Weihai, China.

Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), a four-time ITU World Cup medalist, will be on the hunt for her first career WTS medal, while Summer Rappaport (née Cook, Thornton, Colo.) looks to return to the WTS podium for the first time since her victory in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2016. Rappaport is a regular medalist on the ITU World Cup circuit, with seven victories and 12 total medals to her name.

Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) returns to the WTS stage after winning a gold medal in dominant fashion at the 2018 ITU Under-23 World Championships in Gold Coast. Knibb, who is also a two-time ITU junior world champion, grabbed her first WTS medal with a silver in Edmonton in 2017.

Leading the men’s U.S. contingent is Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.). Hemming’s career-best WTS finish came in Bermuda last year, when he placed 11th against a stacked international field. He was the top U.S. man at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, placing 16th. He capped his 2018 season by earning his first career ITU World Cup medals — a bronze in Tongyeong, South Korea, and a silver in Miyazaki, Japan.

Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) also looks to have a strong start to the season. In 2018, McElroy earned a career-best 11th-place WTS finish in Hamburg, Germany, and earned two bronze medals at the Mooloolaba and New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cups.  

Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) enters his second season as an elite triathlete. Pearson placed seventh in his first professional race at the Mooloolaba ITU World Cup last year — marking one of the best elite debuts by a male triathlete in U.S. history. Just two months later, he placed 14th in his first WTS race in Yokohama, Japan. Pearson went on to win a national title and earn two top-five ITU World Cup finishes in the fall.

Rounding out the start list for the U.S. men is 2016 U.S. Olympian Ben Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.). Kanute placed 19th in Abu Dhabi last year, leading all American men. He also raced at the WTS stops in Bermuda and Leeds, and earned silver at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Championships. Kanute, however, was more focused on non-drafting triathlon last year, placing fourth at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in South Africa.

For complete men’s and women’s start lists, click here.

Daman ITU World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series Abu Dhabi
The ITU World Mixed Relay Series returns after a successful inaugural season in 2018. Abu Dhabi serves as the first stop before the series travels to Nottingham, England, on June 15, Hamburg on July 7 for the ITU Mixed Relay World Championships, and Edmonton on July 21.

The series showcases the fast-paced mixed relay race format ahead of its inclusion as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. At all three events, teams can earn points to bolster their nation’s Mixed Relay Olympic qualification ranking.

Twenty-three teams are set to compete in Saturday’s relay, which begins at 3:06 a.m. ET (12:06 p.m. local time). Fans can follow the action at triathlonlive.tv. Start lists will be finalized on Friday night and will be available on triathlon.org. In the mixed relay format, each athlete in a team of four will complete a 300m swim, 7.6k bike and 1500m run before passing off to the next teammate, alternating men and women. 

The U.S. enters the race as the No. 2 seed behind only 2018 world silver medalist Australia. The U.S. is historically strong in the mixed relay format, earning the 2016 world championship title, 2017 world silver medal and 2013 and 2018 world bronze medals. In the 2018 ITU World Mixed Relay Series, the U.S. also won the gold medal in Nottingham and earned silver in Edmonton.

For more information about ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, visit abudhabi.triathlon.org.

About USA Triathlon

USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).