World No 1 Mario Mola targets third win at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon
Spaniard won the first two events staged in the capital and aims to get his Olympic qualifying year off to a winning start at Yas Marina this Friday
Mario Mola has described the winning the Abu Dhabi Triathlon as "very special" and hopes to use the capital's event for a launch at a fourth successive ITU World Triathlon Series crown.
The Spaniard, a two-time winner in Abu Dhabi, has won the world title the past three years running and gets his campaign under way at the season-opening World Triathlon Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina on Friday.
“This is the first race of the year, so I’m hoping to have a solid swim, ride and run,” Mola said at the launch ceremony at Yas Crowne Plaza Hotel on Wednesday.
“With every season we try to be consistent and this first race is always important: winning here is also very special for me. But that’s the past - I’m now ready and prepared for the future.”
With this an Olympic qualifying year, Mola hopes to get his campaign off to a winning start.
“With every race counting towards our total points for the Tokyo Olympics, we must aim for strong finishes to gain maximum points,” Mola said.
“I’m ready to do that here and the weather for the triathlon is ideal. I try to come here several days before the event just to acclimatise and to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be on race day at Yas Marina Circuit.”
Mola has participated in every Abu Dhabi Triathlon since it was first staged in 2015. He was won the first two editions before finishing eighth in 2017 and runner-up last year behind South African Henri Schoeman.
Vicky Holland, the women's world No 1, has similar objectives of retaining the world title and qualifying for her second Olympics after winning a bronze at the Rio Games three years ago.
“It was an interesting 2018 for me despite falling short of my aim at the Commonwealth Games in April,” said the Briton.
“I was getting better and better after every race last year. The Grand Final race, certainly between myself and Katie [Zaferes of the USA] was fantastic for us as athletes but also for spectators too; it was a great way to win the world title.
“So coming in [to Abu Dhabi] as a world champ, the only pressure I feel is on myself.
“It’s great to come in with this title and it’s something I’m really proud of, but I don’t think that will change how I race – I’m focusing on that podium spot once again.
“Our training remains the same for all races. I taper down a week or so before the event so I’m firing on all cylinders come race day.”
The elite race for men and women have drawn 110 triathletes, including the top 10 men and nine of the top 10 females in the world rankings from 27 countries.
As well as being the largest triathlon in the Middle East, the event is also set to become the most inclusive in history, as athletes participating in the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are set to compete.
Thirty-three Special Olympics athletes from 14 nations are registered, including two athletes from the Special Olympics UAE team.
Updated: March 6, 2019 04:10 PM