The 24-year-old Londoner used his epic run skills to make up for a disappointing 750m swim, which the Tokyo bronze medallist Wilde had made light work of before leading for the entire 20km bike leg in a front pack of three.
Where was the 2022 Commonwealth Games triathlon race held?
The industrial city of Birmingham, in England, today welcomed 48 of the Commonwealth’s best male triathletes for a sprint-distance race over the Sutton Park course.
Notably absent was three-time Olympic medallist and 2014 Commonwealth silver medallist Jonny Brownlee, who was forced to withdraw just two weeks prior to the Games with a broken wrist, sustained in a crash with Wilde at the Leeds WTCS in June.
Another disappointing DNS was defending champion Henri Schoeman, who pulled out on the day due to ongoing fitness concerns. He will, however, be competing in Sunday’s mixed relay race for South Africa.
The host nation’s Yee and Kiwi Wilde were favourites for a title-tussle from the off, having been pretty evenly matched on the 2022 World Triathlon Series circuit thus far.
What happened in the swim of the men’s 2022 Commonwealth Games triathlon?
In a pleasant 22°C, the men’s field filed down to Powell’s Pool for the super-swift, wetsuit-optional 750m swim.
Setting the pace at the front was South Africa’s Jamie Riddle, who hit T1 after 8:34mins. Matching his speed, with what was perhaps a career best swim, was Wilde and teammate Taylor Reid.
What happened in the bike of the men’s 2022 Commonwealth Games triathlon?
Over the next four, 5km draft-legal laps along local hilly roads, the trio controlled the pace, despite many an anxious glance back for the Leeds WTCS winner Wilde to check the gap.
But Wilde soon settled in, his main rival Yee having had a disappointing swim, exiting in 16th, 15secs down, and stuck in a disorganised bike pack for the full 20km.
After lap one, the gap between the leading trio and chasers was at 16secs, 21secs after lap 2, 18secs after lap three and 16 by T2.
So far, so relatively easy… but then T2 disaster, as Wilde seemed to unclip his bike helmet too early before correcting his mistake and gained himself a devastating 10sec penalty*.
What happened in the run of the men’s 2022 Commonwealth Games triathlon?
Wilde, knowing Yee’s run pedigree, didn’t hang about, staking a claim to the gold with a powerful run start. Yee, however, had the same idea and kept the pressure on.
At the end of lap one of 2.5km within the leafy parkland, the gap between the two front runners was down to 7secs. A mere 2.5km would decide the champion.
Who won the men’s 2022 Commonwealth Games?
Moments later, Yee was alongside Wilde, who by now knew about the 10sec penalty. A respectful pat on the back from the Kiwi to the Londoner and a fist-bump, and Wilde filtered off to serve his time. Yee, clapping back to show his regards for his fellow triathlete, rounded the corner and onto the finishing straight.
The jubilant crowd may have been denied a sprint finish, but no one was complaining as Yee grabbed an England flag and cruised to his first Commonwealth victory in 50:34 – and his first major competition gold – with an eventual 13sec cushion over Wilde in second place.
Aussie Matt Hauser collected his first Commonwealth medal in third place in a time of 50:50.
Fourth was Jacob Birthwhistle (AUS), fifth Grant Sheldon (SCOT), sixth Riddle (RSA), seventh Dylan McCullough (NZL), eighth Reid (AUS), ninth Iestyn Harrett (WALES), 10th Charles Paquet (CAN).
*At time of print: Team New Zealand was still appealing the penalty decision.
Quotes from Commonwealth Games winner Alex Yee
On taking the first medal of the Games: “It’s a bit of a fairytale isn’t it? I’ve worked hard for this. And I’m just proud that I could do it for Team England, for myself, my family, for everyone.”
On his first Commonwealth win on home soil:“It was incredible to be a part of that, to have that moment, that’s… I don’t know how often I’ll get to have that. It’s just really special.”
On the Commonwealth experience: “For me, I got to share the startline with nations that I thought would never be able to do triathlon. There are so many barriers to entry, so for me to race alongside those nations was really special. And to do it at home was really special. Something that I will remember forever. Hopefully this is the start for more countries to be involved in our sport.”
On how he paced the bike: “I just needed to race my own race. I still wanted to have good run legs, cause it’s an honest run course, its hard. And I think I did a good job with that. The other boys worked really well with me.”
On Hayden’s race: “I’m sorry that Hyden got his penalty, you never want to see that. I’ve got so much time for Hayden, I’ve got so much respect for him. And I really feel like he brought the best out of me today. It’s still great to share another battle with Hayden.”
On if there’d have been a sprint finish with Wilde: “Ah we’ll never know. Maybe we’ll see in a race in the future. But I’ll always back myself on the run.”
On when he found out about Hayden’s penalty: “I knew at the end of the first lap, I had a look at the penalty board. I was like, Number 1 , is that me? Oh it’s not me, it’s Hayden. I was like shit! It’s just a bit unfortunate our race is kind of determined by a little mistake by him. But that’s racing.”
On the rest of 2022: “It’s looking tight for the world series and I’m all in.”
Quotes from runner-up Hayden Wilde
On how he felt after the race: “It took a little bit to process… second place is nothing to be disappointed about. There’s a few things in the race I did perfectly. That’s the best swim I’ve had in my life and what a place to do it on a grand Games.”
On what his race strategy was: “Got a break away and I was just motivating the boys going, ‘Come on boys, the medals are up here, let’s just go!’ Got a 16sec gap, coach said just relax, let Alex [Yee] catch-up. That was the game plan in the last kilometer to really wind it down.”
On his penalty in T2: “Got a penalty which is debateable, but that’s racing. I know exactly what I did. I think the New Zealand team’s going to protest, but there’s nothing else we can do about it.”
On him cheering Yee to the finish line: “I’m chuffed for the guy, he played a perfect race. He was in the group and he was in contention, I knew it was going to be a hard task even with 16secs in front.
“But we’ve had such a great battle since Tokyo with him getting the silver and myself getting the bronze, just repeating it again was like ‘oh damn another one!’, but it’s awesome to see him being so consistent.
“We came into the limelight together at the exact same time, so it’s really nice we’re still developing and becoming better athletes day by day.”
On the Leeds crash: “We’re really great mates behind the scenes and he knows it’s part of racing. [Alex and Jonny crashing] was the last thing I wanted to see, but to see him here and to get that gold medal for his country is fantastic.
“Obviously Jonny isn’t here, which I’m absolutely disappointed about personally. Having a Brownlee in any race makes it exciting. If I’d have had Jonny up on the front, who knows what would have happened.”
On his silver medal: “It is what it is and I’m super happy I did everything I could have done in the race. I’m proud of what I did, I didn’t leave anything to chance and yeah, it was a ripper!”
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Top image: Ben Lumley/World Triathlon