Photo: Ben Lumley/World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/ in Napier
The intensity and expectation will ratchet up exponentially with every race until the Olympic Games but don’t be fooled by Hayden Wilde’s low-key build into his season bow on Saturday.

The Kiwi No.1 and world No.2 is using World Triathlon Cup Napier as a first dress rehearsal for Paris, on and off the blue carpet.

It includes rolling with all the media interviews and well-meaning theft of time requests that come standard with being one of the favourites for Olympic gold.

There was a live cross to TVNZ’s Breakfast show early Friday, then filming for a piece on the 6pm bulletin that rolled into the midday swim course familiarisation off Ahuriri Beach. The previous day the World Triathlon cameras where focused as he trained in the 50m pool and ran track at Mitre 10 Sports Park in Hastings.

Everyone wants a little piece of Wilde and that adds up to a lot of time he’d prefer to use for training and rest.

It will be no different all the way up to the men’s race at the XXXIII Olympiad on July 30 so Wilde is embracing the inevitable distractions in Napier, fine-tuning a calculated blueprint to deal with all the pressure and outside distractions in the countdown to Paris.

It includes dealing with the expectation of wearing the No.1 bib in Saturday’s sprint race (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) around Ahuriri, to be screened live on TVNZ+.

Everyone expects Wilde to win in a canter, much as he did at New Zealand’s last year’s World Cup stop in New Plymouth last March, but he insists it’s not a case of simply showing up and collecting another title.

“It’s never that simple,” Wilde told

Wilde in New Plymouth last March.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of being No.1 but there’s some pretty good athletes here this weekend, especially from Europe.

“It’s going to be a tough one, it’s going to be a fast swim. If you’re talking world series, there’s probably most of the guys that come out of the water in the top five here so it’s going to be a real fast swim.

“I’m going to need to be on my A-game there and just have to play to my strength when it comes to the bike and run.”

Wilde says he’s not implementing anything radically different in his buildup to Paris compared to his run to bronze at Tokyo in 2021, save for the unavoidable challenges presented by the pandemic three years ago.

He will be careful with his race schedule leading into the Games though, with Napier a nice form guide before he races the opening round of the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) season in Abu Dhabi on March 8-9.

“I guess the build is going to be a little bit different mid-season which will be nice. It’s just getting into a state of being a bit more relaxed and not over doing races but not under doing them as well, just trying to get a nice platform of races to build into the Olympic Games.

“You don’t want to be under-cooked, but you also don’t want to be over-cooked as well.”

After Abu Dhabi, Wilde might not be seen on the world short course circuit again until WTCS Cagliari on May 25, the final race before the Olympic qualification window closes.

“Some of the races I want to do just don’t line up well enough to race them all. The likes of [WTCS] Yokohama and Hamburg are just too close to the event but also too far away from Europe as well. They’re also too close to other events that I’ve got lined up to do like [WTCS] Cagliari.

“I’ll do a few French Grand Prix’s early season. I’ll be in France in March anyway so it’s just an easy travel day. Yeah, just keeping it fairly relaxed but still focusing on my main goal in July.”

Wilde’s pre-season training block was done in Tauranga where pal and fellow Olympian Sam Tanner was an occasional training partner. It clearly paid dividends with Wilde runner-up to Tanner in the Athletics NZ 3000m Championships at the Capital Classic on February 1, his 7:57:47 effort a mere 7 seconds adrift of Tanner.

A big swim block is penciled in for later in the year in France to help Wilde be in the best possible shape for the Olympic splash in the River Seine. But for now, he’s looking forward to racing in front of his home fans from 6:15pm on Saturday.

“I used to live here when I was a kid back in the day, I was quite young so it’s nice to come back here and race in Napier. Know it quite well, done a lot of New Zealand national track running here so it’s quite nice to come here for a triathlon.

“It should be a good weekend, normally the weather is pretty consistent here and looking for a good day. Being on the harbour, it will probably be super flat but also the winds could pick up so that could be something in play with as well.”


Saturday, February 24
12:45pm: Oceania Junior (U19) Championship – Women
2:30pm: Oceania Junior (U19) Championship – Men
4:15pm: World Triathlon Cup Napier – Elite women
6:15pm: World Triathlon Cup Napier – Elite men

How can I watch?
Entry is free for those in the Hawke’s Bay. The elite and Oceania races will also be streamed live on TVNZ+ for those unable to attend. Details of how you can watch all the world class racing can be found HERE.

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