INTERVIEW WITH HAYDEN WILDE - Professional triathlete and Orca ambassador
Winning an Olympic medal is a unique feeling and few have the privilege of experiencing it. New Zealand triathlete and ORCA brand ambassador Hayden Wilde is one of these few after winning the bronze medal in Tokyo last summer. Behind this prestigious award is a long journey and countless hours of training. Any lover of this sport would understand that Triathlon is well worth it. Wilde tells us about the experience, his motivations, his challenges and the next goals he has set for himself as a professional triathlete.
THE OLYMPIC DREAM
He recalls “having a dream to become an Olympian,” from as early as 2017. That dream has come true. The accomplishment is even more impressive considering that at the time when he conceived of this goal, he had not yet competed in an ITU (International Triathlon Union) event. “I knew if I had a good day, it could be a special one, and a special day it was,” he says as he fondly remembers the bronze medal.
His desire to compete in Tokyo made the cancellation of the 2020 Games a disappointment. He points out that “it was a sad and a tough time for everyone," but he focused his energy positively by dedicating the time to becoming “a better athlete for 2021.” When he obtained a high enough classification to be one of the representatives of New Zealand's triathlon team, he was overjoyed by the news, because it meant he was one step closer to achieving his main objective.
THIS SEASON’S GOALS
After the Tokyo Games, his season is not over, although Wilde points out, “To be honest, I am still on cloud nine and I think my body has been on holiday since the Olympics.” He explains that returning to Super League Triathlon competitions “was the one thing I needed.” He adds, “We love this sort of racing and it’s the refresh I need.”
The next event on his agenda is the World Triathlon Championship Series to be held in Abu Dhabi on November 5 and 6. Then, he will go on to compete on the island of Maui (Hawaii) where the Xterra World Championship will take place next December. The New Zealand athlete emphasized that he was especially excited for this event because he will be racing “this time, as an elite.”
With his spirit of constant improvement and athletic ambition, he has also set long-term goals for the next 3 to 5 years that motivate and encourage him to move forward. Among the main challenges, his goals include “Commonwealth Games Champion, winning the World Series, becoming World Champ, [and] taking gold in Paris 2024.”
TRIATHLON AS A PERSONAL CHALLENGE
After playing team sports like hockey and football during his school years, Hayden Wilde opted for triathlon because he “wanted an individual goal.” The sport requires great dedication and willpower in order to get through difficult times. His upbringing is part of what gives him the strength to keep going. “I have never been given everything on a silver platter. I’ve had to fight to get into start lines and pay my way,” he points out, humbled and proud at the same time.
Wilde worked part-time for three years as a landscaper to earn money, because “our family has never had a lot of money.” Perhaps this is why he says he was well aware of the sacrifices he would have to make. “So, when I don’t feel motivated or have doubt, I think of where I came from and also the people that are in my corner and have believed in me every step of the way.”
Whenever he flies to his home country, he trains in Tauranga because he loves the beach and the relaxed lifestyle. Plus, his favorite coach and training partners are there. “When I train at home, I am my happiest,” he tells us.
WATER AND NATURE
As a lover of nature and the ocean, he confesses that water for him signifies freedom. A large part of his training revolves around nature and this is why his favorite trainings are the ones that take him into the forest where he can listen to the birds. “New Zealand is so big but so small and every time you hit the water, whether it’s ocean or lake, you can always find a place to yourself or a hidden gem for a relaxing swim. You know when you swim in New Zealand, it’s clean and beautiful and protected,” he says.
He also has hobbies with a connection to the sea, such as fishing. In 2019, Wilde bought a boat with the aim of spending a lot of time on it, going out fishing and relaxing. For Hayden, any activity that involves “getting in the car and exploring something new” is exhilarating. He is a true adventurer, hunting for and capturing new experiences.
MENTAL MOTIVATION DURING THE PANDEMIC
Mental health is a very important factor in the life of an elite athlete, especially in times of uncertainty, such as the one experienced during the pandemic. The kiwi triathlete explains that placing himself in the hands of sports professionals has been a fundamental part of his preparation for major events. “I highly recommend it,” he says.
With the cancellation of triathlon races due to the coronavirus, he set a series of concrete goals to stay motivated. One of them was to run faster. With this in mind, he did a season of track training in New Zealand, in addition to dedicating himself to cross-country racing. The two activities allowed him to stay focused on specific goals and try something new to keep his mind occupied.
Like any athlete, Wilde has his role models. He says he would like to compete against German triathlete Jan Frodeno, a legend in the sport, and expresses his admiration for his fellow countryman -already retired- Hamish Carter, who dominated triathlon in New Zealand during the 1990s.
Finally, he never forgets to look to the future and passes along some good advice to young people who want to venture into the fantastic world of triathlon: “Don’t leave things to chance, don’t overthink, and just send it!”