By Kent Gray/
Dylan McCullough was just 7½ when the Olympic Games first entered his conscience. He was instantly infatuated but never dreamed he’d one day become an Olympian himself.

“I remember doing projects at school on the Olympics. It was Beijing, when I was at primary school [ACG Strathallan in Karaka],” McCullough said.

“I was quite into [double Olympic single sculling champion] Mahé Drysdale at that time and, yeah, I never ever expected to make it myself someday. That just seemed so far, far away and not within reach at all.

“But yeah, here we are. It hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest.”

McCullough’s Olympic dream, only emboldened when he snared gold at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, officially became reality on Monday when he had his selection for Paris confirmed.

The 23-year-old Aucklander was named alongside Hayden Wilde for the men’s individual race on July 30 and will then team with the Tokyo bronze medallist, Nicole van der Kaay and Ainsley Thorpe in the August 5 Mixed Relay.

“It’s pretty special. I mean, I’ve been targeting the Olympics for a while now, especially after the Youth Olympics in 2018.

“The next goal I wanted to step up to was, obviously, the Olympics. And, yeah, to get there is a pretty big achievement, and I think it shows that I haven’t given up along the road, even though it’s been quite a long time.”

That road hasn’t been without its ups and downs of late for the St Kentigern College old boy, headlined by the revelation of a stress fracture to his left fibula just after his bike-run solo to Oceania Sprint Distance Championship glory at Devonport, Tasmania in March.

It forced McCullough to withdraw early into the run at WTCS Yokohama on May 25 as a precaution. He understands others might be concerned about his fitness but McCullough has zero qualms himself. “I’m very comfortable with where I’m at,” he told

“It hasn’t really hindered me at all. I feel like I’m back to my old self now. And, you know, we’ve still got five weeks, nearly six weeks until the Games, so I’m only going to get better from here,” McCullough said.

He intends racing next weekend’s European Triathlon Premier Cup Holten in The Netherlands and will then be part of a five-strong New Zealand team at WTCS Hamburg on July 13-14. It’s likely Paris reserve Tayler Reid will join McCullough, van der Kaay and Thorpe in a welcome Mixed Relay dress rehearsal on the second day in Hamburg.

“I tend to respond really well to races, and I haven’t really done too many since my stress fracture. So, yeah, obviously, I’m still fit but I definitely want to do a few races before going into Paris. You just get so much more out of racing,” he said.

McCullough says the most special part of his selection was sharing the news with his family and coach John Hellemans.

“I mean, this is kind of just as much for them as it is for me, really. I would not be in this position if it wasn’t for, you know, my mum, dad, my brother. They’ve kind of keep me going through all the hard times.

“Also my coach, John Hellemans, who picked me up in 2019 after glandular fever and got me going again. I probably wouldn’t be this athlete I am now if it wasn’t for John and my family.”

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