Cloudy skies over Yas Marina early Friday gave little hint of the forecast wild weather. Photo: Tri NZ

By Kent Gray/

The opening round of the World Championship Series (WTCS) has been sensationally cancelled by the threat of adverse weather forecast to hit the UAE capital over the next 48 hours.

Heavy rainfall, thunder and even hailstorms are predicted in the desert state, leading the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to cancel all outdoor activities on the advice of The National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority of Abu Dhabi.

The safety first decree extends from Friday to Sunday. World Triathlon sough an exemption to hold WTCS Abu Dhabi and the World Triathlon Para Cup behind closed doors at Yas Marina but had the application denied.

It means Hayden Wilde, Tayler Reid, Dylan McCullough, Ainsley Thorpe, Brea Roderick (who had all flown from New Zealand) and Nicole van der Kaay (from her new Portugal base) will have to rearrange their racing schedules.

WTCS Abu Dhabi not only offered points rich individual races but the final scheduled Mixed Relay before the Paris Olympic Games qualification cut-off.

It is not yet known if World Triathlon will look to replace the Abu Dhabi round but the cancellation leaves it in a sticky situation as another Olympic-qualification Mixed Relay was cancelled in Montreal last year due to poor air quality caused by Quebec wildfires. Later the Mixed Relay at the Paris Olympic Test Event was reduced to a duathlon due to the poor water quality in the River Seine.

World Triathlon made Friday’s announcement, “with regret”, at approximately 10:30am (7:30pm NZT) – just 5 ½ hours before the individual women’s race was scheduled to take the hooter.

Here’s World Triathlon’s full statement:

“It is with regret that we announce the cancellation of the 2024 World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi, scheduled to take place on Friday, 8 March and Saturday, 9 March, due to severe adverse weather conditions. We do not, at any stage, wish to put our athletes in danger and the forecast adverse weather would have jeopardised the safety of the event. The safety of our athletes is of paramount importance and this decision has not been taken lightly.

The decision, jointly made by the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), Abu Dhabi Sports Council and World Triathlon, comes after the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority of Abu Dhabi announced that all activities outdoors from Friday, 8 March until Sunday, 10 March, are to be cancelled, due to the severe rainfall and thunderstorms forecasted.

The Local Organising Committee, Abu Dhabi Sports Council and World Triathlon have tried all possible avenues to host at least the events scheduled for Friday, 8 March, in a secured and closed venue, but the the local authorities have dismissed this option as all public events have to be cancelled given the need of the region to get ready for the adverse weather circumstances. Best regards,
The World Triathlon Team.”

The decision is a blow for all and none so more than McCullough who has seen repeated chances to prove his Mixed Relay worth to the NZ selections stymied by misfortune.

McCullough was named in the NZL team for the cancelled Montreal race, then fell ill the day before another MR at WTCS Sunderland. He was later robbed of the chance to use his swim prowess in Paris.

Soon after the cancellation was confirmed, NZ team management in Abu Dhabi met to discuss next steps for the athletes.

The next WTCS round is scheduled for Yokohama, Japan on May 11. WTCS Cagliari on May 25 is the last of World Triathlon’s premier race series events before the individual qualification cut-off for Paris on May 27.

A ‘final chance’ Mixed Relay qualifier for nations not already qualified for Paris is scheduled for World Cup Hautulco (Mexico) on ay 18-19. With a MR ranking of 4, NZL is a lock for Paris so would not necessarily need to compete.

More to follow…

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