Tauranga athletes holding Olympic dream

Hayden Wilde

There has never been anything quite like the worldwide shutdown over the COVID-19 virus.

The economic impact is already hitting home in New Zealand from major tourism operators and exporters, to the little people like yours truly who lost eight per cent of his Kiwi Saver value in two days.

Unlike previous economic melt downs sport has been adversely affected to unprecedented levels. It is fair to say sport’s immune system has shut down completely. No Super Rugby, no NRL, no A League and very likely in the coming weeks no grassroots rugby, league or football either.

But the future of the biggest sporting event of all is yet to be decided.

The Tokyo Olympics is the ultimate goal for Tauranga athletes who have qualified or who are close to doing so. People like kayakers Luuka Jones and Callum Gilbert, rower Mahe Drysdale, sailors Peter Burling, Jason Saunders, Molly Meech and Sam Meech, Paralympic road cyclist Fraser Sharp, and hockey players Rose Keddell, Gemma McCaw, Sam Charlton and Frances Davies.

One more name to add to that impressive list is triathlete Hayden Wilde who last month proved he has a career on the track if he ever wants to hang up his wet suit.

Coach Craig Kirkwood set plans for Hayden to compete at track and field events over the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m distances. It was all designed to improve his top end speed and that all-important finishing sprint.

He ran a creditable 3m50s in his first ever 1500m race at the Porritt Classic before he took 40 seconds off his 5000m time at the Sir Graeme Douglas International 2020 meet.

Then in just his fourth competitive 5000m race he defeated the best runners in the country at the NZ National Track and Field Championships held in Christchurch to claim the title.

With the ITU suspending all competitions and activities until April 30 due to COVID-19, last weekend’s Mooloolaba World Cup served as his last race for who knows how long. 

Hayden was injured in a freak accident the day before the race leaving him with a damaged ankle and calf. Despite the setback he pushed Olympic rival Ryan Sissans all the way to finish second. Both athletes posted 51m 50s.

“From having second thoughts about pulling the pin the morning of the race to getting on the podium was well out of expectations,” says Hayden.

“Before the crash I wanted the win so bad but with the unfortunate event for me it was all about getting to the start line. Every stride hurt the body. I just had to push through as I knew this could be the last race for quite some time.”

For all our athletes let’s hope the Olympic flame will be burning in Tokyo.

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