Abu Dhabi: Organisers of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi have announced that the 2018 global triathlon season-opener and the largest triathlon in the Middle East, will feature dedicated waves for para-triathletes for the first time.

First-timers and seasoned para-triathletes will have the chance to rub shoulders and compete alongside inspirational heroes of Paralympic triathlon including Andy Lewis, the World and European Champion and Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallist, and Mohammad Lahna, the bronze medallist at Rio.

The dedicated para waves will take place on Saturday March 2, on the same course as fellow age-groupers on Yas Island — which was recently announced as the host venue for ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2018.

“The introduction of a para wave into the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is huge step in the right direction for the event. As the global WTS season-opener, Abu Dhabi is setting a precedent for other races to include dedicated para waves and make triathlon accessible to all,” said Great Britain’s Lewis. “I’ve heard that the course on Yas Island is one-of-a-kind, and I’m looking forward to coming to the Middle East to be part of what I’m sure will be a fantastic occasion.”

Following a motorcycle accident at the age of 16-years-old, which resulted in a leg amputation, Lewis’ remarkable journey has seen him compete across the globe and become one of the most decorated Paralympic triathletes in the world. His love for triathlon came from watching the London 2012 Paralympics, where he was inspired by those competing. He is now part of the Great Britain World Class Performance Program and continues to compete at the highest level.

Fellow Paralympian Lahna was born with a birth defect that severely affected his right leg. Fitted with a prosthesis at the age of 20, the Moroccan was determined to compete at the highest level of para sports and at the age of 27, competed in his first marathon. He now has sites set firmly on competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and going for gold in the Paratriathlon.

“Growing up, I could never have imagined achieving what I have.” said Lahna, “But at 20 years old, the world of sport presented itself to me and I never looked back. I hope that with the introduction of para waves at this year’s event in Abu Dhabi, people from across the region and worldwide will see that triathlon can be a gateway to a healthier and more active lifestyle, and who knows, maybe even a future career in sport.

“I attended the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2017 as a spectator — it’s a really unique event so I was delighted to hear that I would have the chance to compete in 2018! I’m especially excited to go up against Andy again following our Rio showdown — hopefully our performance will inspire other para-athletes to give triathlon a go.”