Photo: World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/
Hayden Wilde has arrived at the start of the most important week of his season armed with cautious confidence.

The Kiwi No.1 has openly targeted the Olympic test event as his key 2023 race given a podium finish secures an automatic nomination to the NZOC for next summer’s Games in Paris.

But since securing the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) lead in Sunderland late last month, the 25-year-old now also has the chance to take a stranglehold on the world title that so cruelly eluded him in 2023.

The men’s race on Friday (6pm NZT) is over the standard (or Olympic) distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) which means Paris carries 100 percent points towards the WTCS, compared to 75 percent for the sprint in Sunderland where Wilde was third.

Wilde was able to discard his season opening 46th place in Abu Dhabi (flat tyre) with the Sunderland bronze and a top-3 finish in Paris would mean he could drop the Sunderland result as well. An athlete’s four best results count towards the WTCS, plus their points haul at the season finale in Pontevedra, Spain on September 23 which means Wilde is hoping to add to his wins in Yokohama, Hamburg and second place in Cagliari.

“…if I have another top three in Paris, which is the aim as it’s the automatic [Olympic Games] qualifier for me, that would give me more points and it would actually swap a race out as well. So more points the better as that gives me an opportunity to do worse in Pontevedra,” Wilde told Triathlon 24/7.

“It’s always nice going to a World Champs knowing that you don’t have to win the race to take the title.”

The two men who beat Wilde to the Olympic title in Tokyo – Kristian Blummenfelt and Alex Yee – bypassed Sunderland but are back for Paris. The resumption of his ding-dong battle with Yee is particularly mouth-watering with Wilde edging the Brit for the first time in a WTCS race they both finished in Hamburg.

Yee won the last time they raced over the standard distance in Cagliari but Wilde knows he can’t solely focus on the GB No.1.

“It’ll be nice to be back at the Olympic distance. The last one was Cagliari and that was a real, tough battle with Alex which was cool. And I think we both want to re-edit the Abu Dhabi World Championships from last year and go toe-to-toe again.

“I’ve said it before but I never take any podium for granted – and it’s not just Alex and I that can win, anyone can win on a given day. If you are half a percent off, a percent off, you’ll pay for it.

“Pierre [Le Corre] and Leo [Bergere] were amazing in Sunderland, kudos to those guys and they’re looking great for the Paris event.”

Tayler Reid, Dylan McCullough, Nicole van der Kaay, Ainsley Thorpe and Brea Roderick are also on the start list for Paris where a first Kiwi on any step of the podium result will earn an automatic nomination to the NZOC for next summer’s XXXIII Olympic Games.

The women race on August 17, the men follow on August 18 before the Kiwi six are streamlined to four for the August 20 Mixed Relay.

All three races are scheduled for 0800 Paris time starts, meaning handy 6pm NZT viewing for Kiwi fans on

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