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While many of us are winding down for the year, some athletes are already hitting the blue carpet for the new season. This weekend will be already the second World Triathlon Championship Series race of the 2022 season. (Yes, that is confusing.) Post-2021 Grand Final in Edmonton, there have been a handful of World Cups—including two back-to-back wins from the next big British sensation, Beth Potter. But this weekend will be the first shot at the higher level racing on the WTCS level since Hamburg back in September. This provides a chance for those looking to make a name on the circuit (including long-course star Lucy Charles-Barclay) to go up against some of the top athletes coming back after their Super League September and mini breaks.
The other big event in Abu Dhabi will actually be the last race for the para-triathletes. Interestingly, the WTCS Abu Dhabi race will also serve as the World Triathlon Para Championships for 2021. (Yes, this is even more confusing.) For para-athletes whose categories weren’t contested in the Paralympics—not all categories are raced in every Paralympics—this will be their shot at a world title. And for some of the Paralympians, they’ll be looking for redemption, including Australian Lauren Parker, who was outsprinted at the line in the wheelchair event, and British visually impaired athlete Dave Ellis, who had a mechanical in Tokyo and was upset for the gold by Brad Snyder.
Who to watch in Abu Dhabi
In the elite race on Friday evening (morning on the East Coast in the U.S.), the women’s race is truly next level—the kind of competition we rarely see outside of world champs and Olympic qualifiers. It’ll be headlined by the return to World Triathlon racing of Olympic champ and reigning world champion, Flora Duffy. But she’s never won in Abu Dhabi. And she’ll face stiff competition this weekend. Young American star Taylor Knibb is hoping to continue her breakout season streak, and will be joined by Americans Summer Rappaport and Taylor Spivey. But the biggest challenge will likely from the always deep British squad: Olympic medalists Georgia Taylor-Brown (silver in the individual, gold in the relay) and Jessica Learmonth (gold in the relay) will lead a group that includes Lucy Charles-Barclay returning to the WTCS circuit in a possible bid for the Commonwealth Games next year, as well as Beth Potter, Vicky Holland, Non Stanford, and Sophie Coldwell.
On the men’s side, we won’t see Olympic gold medalist and current world #1 Kristian Blummenfelt, who is presumably skipping the race to focus on his Ironman debut, and we’ll also be missing Alex Yee and the British contingent. However, we will see American Morgan Pearson back on the start line for the first time since the silver medal on the mixed team relay in Tokyo. Vincent Luis, who led the French team to the bronze medal in the relay, will look to return to the top in the individual. But both will have to contend with Olympic bronze medalist Hayden Wilde and Jelle Geens, who missed Tokyo because of a COVID positive.
All the categories will be contested in the para races: PT2, PT3, PT4, PT5, PTVI, and PTWC. (For a full breakdown of paratriathlon categories and how paratri works, read this.) In the visually impaired race, PTVI, gold medalist Susana Rodriguez will look to repeat her incredibly dominant performance, while Davis Ellis will try for redemption from a mechanical in Tokyo. (Gold medalist Brad Snyder won’t be making it to Abu Dhabi, having headed back to grad school.) The in the wheelchair event, PTWC, Lauren Parker will try for her second world title; rival Kendall Gretsch, who outsprinted her at the line, has already turned to training for the winter Paralympics and won’t be in Abu Dhabi. In PT2 it’ll be all about silver medalist Hailey Danz, and in the men’s race Mohammed Lahna is making his return to paratri at the world level after para-cycling the last few years. And in the PT5, there will be a repeat of the intense battle between Grace Norman and Claire Cashmore.
How to watch
All of the races will be streamed on triathlonlive.tv—subscriptions cost $9/month or $32/year. You can also stream it on FloSports—$150/year for all access to cycling events. Check the full list of TV providers for the World Triathlon races to see where it’s available for you.