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Hayden Wilde’s bronze-medal win puts triathlon ‘back into the spotlight’

“A heck of a moment”.

That’s how Hayden Wilde’s Olympic bronze medal win has been described.

His family, fans and former coaches say the “massive” achievement was well-earned and had put triathlon “back into the spotlight”.

The Whakatāne athlete, who now calls Tauranga home, brought home New Zealand’s first medal of the Tokyo 2020 games in the men’s triathlon yesterday.

It was a medal an emotional Wilde dedicated to his dad.

“He died 12 years ago and never got to see me race,” he said.

While Wilde, 23, stood on the Olympic podium, his family cheered him on from Whakatāne Sportfishing Club.

“We’re pretty ecstatic, pretty proud,” Hamish Wilde said of his brother’s win.

“Everything’s still sinking in. It’s a heck of a moment.”

Hamish said his brother only picked up triathlon five years ago and worked hard all the time, even on Christmas Day.

“This medal isn’t something that’s just been given to him. He’s earned it. He’s worked hard for it.”

Professional endurance sports coach Craig Kirkwood said Wilde’s journey had been four years in the making.

“I am extremely proud of him. It’s been a cool journey to be part of,” he said.

“It’s just perfect, couldn’t have asked for more. To come away with a medal is [a] top-of-the-list achievement.”

The win was “hugely significant” for Wilde’s career, he said.

“It will ignite a fire in him that will burn bright for a long time.”

Wilde was a “genuine bloke” who wants to be the best he can be, Kirkwood said.

“He is chasing his dream, and this is just the beginning for him.”

Kirkwood said Wilde had told him after the race he was “stoked” with how the race played out and was looking forward to celebrating with the rest of the New Zealand Olympic team.

“He is enjoying the moment he brought to the whole New Zealand team.”

Liz van Welie, one of Wilde’s swimming coaches, said the race was one she wouldn’t miss and she was thrilled to see Wilde win bronze.

“This is massive. It is a huge achievement. I certainly knew it was in him.”

van Welie thought it was an “Olympic cycle too early” for Wilde to win a medal.

“He was always a talent and still has three more Olympic cycles in him. I thought top five or even top eight we would have been happy with,” she said.

“I am so stoked for him and for his mum.”

Messaging Wilde the night before the race, van Welie said she told him to treat it as just another race.

“He said he was feeling as good as he ever has.”

van Welie said Wilde was one of the “nicest guys” and a hard worker.

“He dots his Is and crosses his Ts.”

van Welie competed at the 2000 Summer Olympics and won a silver medal in the women’s 400m individual medley at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

She said it was a “pretty cool” feeling to win a medal.

“It’s about putting the race together and getting it right on the day.”

Triathlon Tauranga events and development manager Paul Miller said Wilde was a “pretty inspirational” athlete.

“It just shows if you put in the hard mahi you get the results. Hayden has certainly put the sport back in the spotlight.”

Wilde is the third New Zealand triathlete to win an Olympic medal behind Hamish Carter (gold in Athens) and Bevan Docherty (silver in Athens, bronze in Beijing).

Wilde is ranked 13th in the world and claimed the bronze medal at the 2019 Tokyo ITU World Triathlon Olympic Qualification event.

He posted a fifth on the World Cup circuit in Leeds in 2021 and third over the line in the Elite men at the 2021 European Championships.

Wilde was also part of the gold-winning mixed relay team at the under-23 World Championships in 2019.

Additional reporting Maryana Garcia

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