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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi: Mario Mola owes overall success in 2017 to last year's disappointment at Yas Marina

World No 1 in better frame of mind as he looks to make up for missing out on hat-trick of titles in emirate last season

Mario Mola lines up with some of the leading triathletes in the world in Abu Dhabi this weekend, including Jonny Brownlee. Victor Besa / The National
Mario Mola lines up with some of the leading triathletes in the world in Abu Dhabi this weekend, including Jonny Brownlee. Victor Besa / The National

Mario Mola has returned to Abu Dhabi fresh from a successful 2017 season that saw him win four of the nine ITU World Triathlon Series races.

And as the world No 1 prepared for the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi on Friday, he took a moment to reflect on a missed opportunity to complete a hat-trick of titles this time last year, instead finishing a disappointing eighth.

It was this disappointment that propelled him to the heights he reached during the rest of the season, including being crowned world champion and rising to the top of the rankings.

“Of course I always want to win like any other athlete, but last year I thought some of the guys were better than me in the Abu Dhabi," Mola said. "Losing in Abu Dhabi, perhaps, provided me the motivation to do better in the remaining races."

The Spaniard, who turned 28 last week, is in the capital for his fourth race in as many years and has declared he is in good shape as he aims to emulate his 2015 and 2016 victories.

“I spent a good winter and I had a good preparation ahead of Abu Dhabi, and I have come in good shape here. This is the first one and you don’t know how the others are. That’s what we will be able to see on Friday."

This time, however, he is more relaxed about what lies ahead for him.

“Sometimes you have to be just happy with [what] you have done, even though the results that you were expecting in the race don’t come in your favour," he said.

Mola, who has been competing since his junior days in 2005, has even developed his own philosophy to performing. “In order to keep winning and doing things well, you’ve got to think or act as if you haven’t won anything before," he said. "That’s my mentality now.

“This is the first race after eight months of competitions last year. For me, if the race goes well then it's good. Otherwise you just keep working through the year because this is a world series. If you can’t win here, there is always another."

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Jonny Brownlee is expected to contend for the title in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National
Jonny Brownlee is expected to contend for the title in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

So apart from winning in Abu Dhabi, what are his objectives for 2018?

“I always think I can do better and be a better athlete. In terms of results, I would like to think I can fight for the world championship again,” Mola said.

On Friday at Yas Marina, he lines up against nine of world's top 10 triathletes, including two-time Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee. The women's event is just as competitive, with Bermudan world No 1 Flora Duffy and last year’s winner, Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand, in the mix.

Naturally, Mola has the highest regard for all of them: “All the guys starting in this opening race of the year have done a lot of work for a good race and a good result."