ABU DHABI // Raynard Tissink, the South African who is a five-time Ironman event winner, and Philip Graves, last year's UK Ironman champion, will provide the strongest challenges to the UAE resident Faris al Sultan in next month's Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Al Sultan finished 10th in last year's Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, and organisers of the Abu Dhabi event say they have attracted a field - drawn no doubt to the USS250,000 (Dh918,000) in prize money - comparable to that seen in the sport's top event.
"My goal will be to finish, yet as I usually handle the heat pretty well I'll be conservatively looking to finish in the top 10," said Tissink. "I expect the competition to be really tough, but I expect the course and conditions to be even tougher." Other contenders include Luxembourg's Dirk Bockel, who finished ahead of al Sultan in seventh place at the Ironman World Championships, and Spain's Eneko Llanos, who finished second in 2008.
With a 3km swim, 200km bike section and a 20km run, the triathlon will not be as long as the normal Ironman distance. There is also a shorter race, which has a 1.5km swim, 100km bike and 10km run. The field for the women's competition is headed by Briton's Leanda Cave, gold medallist in the 2007 Long Distance World Championships. "The distance is fantastic for me, I'm a swim and bike specialist and this plays perfectly to my strengths," she said.
Her main challenge will probably come from the Dutchwoman Yvonne Van Vlerken, runner-up in the 2008 Ironman World Championships, and the United Kingdom's Julie Dibbens. The race will be held on Saturday March 13, with the course starting and finishing at the breakwater in the capital. The cycle route will take competitors onto Saadiyat and Yas Islands, and includes the Formula One track. firstname.lastname@example.org