Watch above: Thousands of the world’s top triathletes are in the City of Champions for the TransCanada Corp. World Triathlon Grand Final. The opening ceremony kicked things off Thursday evening. Shallima Maharaj was there.
EDMONTON — Thousands of athletes from nations around the world packed Churchill Square Thursday evening for the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Triathlon Grand Final.
The athletes streamed into the square carrying the flags of their countries, as hundreds of spectators gathered to welcome them to the City of Champions.
More than 3,000 of the world’s top triathletes, representing 73 nations, will be competing in and around Hawrelak Park for the next five days.
“We have been preparing for more than 18 months and we’re ready to welcome the world,” said Don Lowry, board chair, 2014 Triathlon Edmonton Ltd.
“We set a standard in 2001 when we did the world championship and it was classified by the International Triathlon Union as the best ever. And we set the target of beating that and improving on it this time,” added board member Brian Hetherington.
Thursday morning, Edmonton Oilers’ Captain Andrew Ference presented four of the top athletes with personalized Oilers’ jerseys.
Many of the athletes arrived in the city earlier this week and have been spending the past few days training on the course.
“It’s great to race in such a nice venue as here, in a great city like Edmonton,” said Spain’s Javier Gomez, the top-ranked male.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a great crowd supporting the athletes, it’s a very nice city. So I think we are all ready to race well and give it our best.”
Gomez has won three ITU Triathlon World Championships and won the silver medal for Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics in men’s triathlon.
British athlete Jodie Stimpson, who ranks in the top three in the women’s race, says she’s really impressed with Edmonton’s course.
“It’s nice to have a final that’s not flat, to be honest,” she said Thursday morning. “This has got everything, it’s got a hill, it’s technical, it’s got a fast descent, so I’m really excited to race this course.
“I think Edmonton’s done a really good job of getting a hard course for the final.”
Canada’s Kyle Jones knows the course well; he placed second last year and first the year before.
“I really like the course, especially this year, they’ve made a few adjustments, but I think it suits me well. And obviously just having the home crowd behind you,” he said. “It’s really great for us Canadians.”
Athletes will compete in several categories, including U23, junior, mixed relay, aquathlon, corporate try-a-tri and paratriathlon. The women’s elite race goes Saturday, and the men’s will be held on Sunday.
There are still tickets available for the events. For more information, visit the World Triathlon Grand Final’s website.
© Shaw Media, 2014