x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

1,600 swim, run and cycle for Abu Dhabi's annual triathlon

Amateurs and Olympians compete across three courses.

ABU DHABI // More than 1,600 people took to the streets and the sea yesterday for the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

Amateur athletes competed alongside professionals such as Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee, from the UK.

Looks of relief, joy and the odd painful grimace were etched on the faces of competitors as they made it to the finish line at the Corniche.

An excited crowd of supporters cheered on the 1,662 entrants - the highest number since the event was first held in 2010.

One competitor, Tori Gregory, a 32-year-old British teacher who lives in Dubai, was savouring the moment after completing a 1.5-kilometre swim.

"It was brilliant. I loved it. I was so worried about it but I got in the water and the water was just amazing. It was the best swim I have had," she said. "Alistair [Brownlee] was in the water at the same time. I was pretty nervous about it but it was great. I look forward to seeing what my time was compared to his."

Competitors completed one of three courses: the long course consisted of a 3km swim, a 200km cycle and 20km run; the half-length "short" course was a 1.5km swim, a 100km cycle and a 10km run and the sprint course a 750-metre swim, a 50km cycle and 5km run.

Briton Mark Pinder, 52, a lawyer who lives in Abu Dhabi, powered his way through the sprint course.

"I used to do triathlons but stopped for 16 years and got back into it this year," he said, minutes after crossing the finish line. "This event is brilliantly organised so I wanted to get back into it. The weather is pretty perfect for it and it's right here on my doorstep.

"I came and watched it last year and it gave me the bug."

Alexander Nygaard, 19, travelled from Denmark to take part for the first time, finishing the sprint course in two hours, five minutes.

"It was pretty warm but a lot of fun. I will definitely do it again," he said.

Canadian Cynthia Varandan, 38, a midwife in Dubai, was supporting her friends and found the day really inspiring.

"I have not competed but actually I'm thinking about it. I just haven't had time to train," she said. "You see people of all ages, all backgrounds, all countries and all levels of ability and there's just this sense of accomplishment on their faces afterwards. It's an amazing feat."

Faisal Al Sheikh, the director of the events bureau at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which organised the triathlon, said the event "didn't disappoint".

"What has been especially encouraging is the sheer number of people who are competing for the first time and who have travelled thousands of miles to be with us this weekend, meaning word of mouth of this event continues to spread," he added.