World number one Hayden Wilde is looking forward to facing his long-time rival Alex Yee this weekend for the World Triathlon Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi.
The 25-year-old from New Zealand, who leapfrogged both Yee and Kristian Blummenfelt to claim the number one position in the world rankings, made his intentions clear to win in the capital by skipping the Cagliari and Bermuda races and arrive four weeks early to prepare for the event that takes place until November 26 on Yas Island.
He says the reason for that was because he wanted to be as fresh as possible for the race. “I wanted to focus all my attention and energy on Abu Dhabi. It was risky not doing Cagliari or Bermuda but I weighed the risks and rewards and I decided to not to race in those two. So now I am turning up in Abu Dhabi and whoever crosses the finish line first will win the series. It’s an honour to hold that number one seeding and I hope to continue to hold that top ranking post Abu Dhabi.”
In Neom, Saudi Arabia, he took third behind Matt Hauser and Jonny Brownlee to clinch the Super League Triathlon crown. He says the pair were exceptional on the day but feels he could have beaten them. “I was absolutely stoked by that achievement but those boys were extremely strong that day and I probably came into the event with tired legs,” he says. “You never know on another day I might have got them but they were extremely good. Matt has been my rival through the Super League series and Jonny has got a few Olympic medals to his name. They are classy athletes and to compete with them side by side is always an honour.”
He is aware the conditions will be tough in the capital what with the extreme heat plus the humidity certain to play a factor but is ready and prepared to give his best. “I arrived here from Saudi Arabia and I am ready to compete but nobody has ever raced the Olympic distance in Abu Dhabi it’s normally a sprint distance which is half the distance so I think a lot of people are going to underestimate the conditions here. When you are racing at your maximum you can suffer massively. So I am delighted I came over early and tried to acclimatize the body as much as possible so I can better prepare myself for race day and hopefully I can deliver. I’ve done everything in my power to be fit and healthy I just have to hope all the stars align and I put in a great performance on the day.”
He has enjoyed some great battles against Yee and Blummenfelt and can’t wait to compete against them again. “It’s going to be really nice, we haven’t raced each other for a while. We’ve all been doing our own thing. Kristian’s been doing some long course stuff and Alex has been focusing on trying to get some extra points through the World Series and I’ve been busy in the Super League. So it will be nice to tango once again with those boys in Abu Dhabi.”
He is friends with Yee away from the course and he says the pair spur each other on to continue improving. “We both grew up through the Super League series and we developed our potentials at the same time so it’s really nice to have a guy like that to compete with. He gets me up every morning to be a better person and a better athlete and I hope I kind of make him do the same thing as well. Off the field we’re more than happy to hang out and that is what’s really nice about the triathlon you might be fierce rivals on the course but off course we’re all great mates at the end of the day.”
He won the Silver medal at the Commonwealth Games this year and says the aim now is to take home the World Championship title, and he is confident he can achieve that. “It’s been such an incredible journey this year, the results have been coming really well and I have been stoked by my own personal performance. As athletes we strive for consistency and I am going to push my limits and try to get that win and get that world title. The confidence from the season is high and I hope I can just finish it off.”
Wilde won an Olympic medal in 2020 and says it was a long journey which required a lot of hard work and dedication. “In 2017 I switched from offroad racing to the on-road Olympic area. I had a part time job as a landscaper and was trying to earn a dollar and I was trying to get on to the world series and circuit and a few years later I got there but to get to the Olympics was kind of a dream and to then get a medal was definitely something I never dreamed of.”
He is in top form right now but knows that there is room for improvement in particular the swimming discipline. He has age on his side and knows he can do it. “In triathlon years I am still young and there is room for me to grow with knowledge and experience. I want to get stronger in certain disciplines. I know my swim personally is not the best but in time it will get better.”
He has switched up his training to the Olympic distance ahead of the end-of-season showdown in Abu Dhabi and says he is very much looking forward to competing in the UAE. “It’s great that the final is taking place in Abu Dhabi it is a great venue on Yas Island. For me personally I’ve been here a while and loving what Abu Dhabi has to offer from the culture side and how they are pursuing the sports side of things. They have amazing training facilities for cycling, they have purpose built tracks for road biking which is absolutely fantastic and you feel safe you know you’re not going to be hit by a car!”
He feels collaborating with the New York University was a great experience and it helped him a great deal. “It has been awesome, they’ve given me access to gym facilities, swimming pool facilities. I’ve also been working closely with the national federation athletes that are part of the UAE they’ve been helping me get around and giving me advice where to go and where to swim so it’s been awesome.”