Kat Matthews and Hayden Wilde join Bahrain 13 team

Top triathletes Kat Matthews and Hayden Wilde announce that they will race for the controversially-named team in 2023

Kat Matthews of Britain celebrates on the podium after winning the women's race at Ironman 70.3 Swansea on August 7, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales

Ironman World Championship runner-up Kat Matthews and Olympic bronze medallist Hayden Wilde have become the latest in a line of high-profile triathletes to sign for the Bahrain Victorious 13 triathlon team.


Matthews is on the comeback trail after a horrific bike crash ruled her out of last year’s Ironman World Championship in Kona, the second Ironman world champs of the year after Matthews finished second to Daniela Ryf in Utah in May.

Wilde, meanwhile, is keen to make up for last year’s World Triathlon Grand Final. The 2022 Super League champion had been favourite to take the title but a sixth-place finish in Abu Dhabi saw him end the year in third.

Why did Kat Matthews join the Bahrain team?

Army physio Matthews joins fellow Brits Alistair Brownlee, Holly Lawrence, Joe Skipper and Georgia Taylor-Brown on the Bahrain Victorious 13 squad that is the brainchild of Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a high-level age-group triathlete and member of the ruling family of Bahrain.

Announcing the news on the Bahrain Victorious 13 Instagram account, Matthews said: “I’m honoured to be joining the Bahrain Victorious 13 team. Being part of a team full of champions really motivates me to continue to optimise my dedication in the sport and it’s an incredibly inspiring environment to be where we can see the strength in one another and aim to improve ourselves.”

Matthews joins two New Zealanders, Wilde and Ironman Asia Pacific champion Amelia Rose Watkinson as new recruits for 2023. Multiple Ironman world champions Jan Frodeno and Ryf remain on the team, having been members since its inception in 2015.

Following the announcements of partnerships with Huub and Canyon, it signals the latest sponsorship deal for Matthews who has increased autonomy over contracts having left the BMC Pro Triathlon team after a successful three-year stint.

Before the crash in Texas in September where she  was blindsided by a car, Matthews had been having a standout year with Ironman 70.3 wins in Lanzarote and Swansea and posting 7:31:54 over the iron-distance in the Pho3nix Sub8 Project in Germany.

Another Brit, Lucy Buckingham (nee Hall) has been named as her replacement with BMC.

Why is it called Bahrain Victorious 13? 

Having been formed as Bahrain Endurance 13, this will be the ninth season of competition for Shaikh Nasser’s team, for whom two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack is instrumental in bringing the best in the sport on board, such as France’s Vincent Luis and paratriathlon world champion Lauren Parker.

Last year, the team also changed its name to Victorious, which aligns it with the UCI world tour cycling team that started in 2017.

Shaikh Nasser’s vision for the triathlon team involves encouraging health and wellness throughout the Gulf region, with the triathletes committing to school visits and training camps around the Ironman 70.3 Bahrain race at the end of the year.

Yet its formulation has been the subject of criticism, with protestors claiming it has been set up to sports wash the reputation of the Bahraini government and draw attention away from alleged human rights abuses.

Much of the consternation centres on the use of the number ‘13’ in the team name, with the Bahrain 13 also the name given to a group of opposition leaders, rights activists and Shia clerics who were imprisoned after the Arab Spring of 2011 having protested against the current regime.

Spokespeople for the team have always contested that 13 is the lucky number of Sheikh Nasser and the team name was not conceived to try to supplant the protestors in online search rankings.


Top image credit: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for Ironman