Alex Yee delivers dramatic late win to take Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham
It was yet another almighty showdown between England’s Alex Yee and New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde that brought the Sutton Park crowd to its feet in Birmingham on Friday morning, as the local hero closed down and eventually passed his rival to take the tape, even before Wilde was forced to serve a 10 second penalty for an equipment infraction, eventually crossing just ahead of Australia’s Matthew Hauser with another excellent bronze.
Yee and the chase pack found themselves nearly 20 seconds back from the leaders coming out of transition and onto the run, but as he went through the gears and Wilde knew his penalty awaited for unclipping his bike helmet early, it was another famous win in another remarkable year for England’s latest star.
“So many emotions through that race,” said a smiling Yee afterwards. “The swim was solid but then I see Hayden up the road and just wanted to stay calm. I’ve run on this course hundreds of times so the loop felt familiar, and I’m just proud to pull it together for England. This race is honest and hard and I didn’t want to blow up my legs on the bike. With those hills, 15 seconds felt like nothing, Hayden was just dangling there in front of me. I’m sorry Hayden got his penalty but to have that finish moment is just really special. I looked at the penalty bored and saw his number. That’s racing, there’ll be plenty more battles along the way.”
Yee and Wilde assumed opposite ends of the pontoon start, and it was the New Zealander tucked in between Hauser and teammate Tayler Reid getting a great start from the right.
South Africa’s Jamie Riddle was also flying through the 750m swim and came out of the water right behind Reid, England’s Daniel Dixon just off Wilde’s shoulder, Scotland’s Cameron Main, Jersey’s Ollie Turner and Grant Sheldon (SCO) following up the long transition.
Riddle was away fast up ahead, Wilde and Reid soon working with him to pull away from the Dixon and Main-led chasers, and a 10 second gap was quickly established and then extended to 16 seconds by the end of lap one of four to Lestyn Harrett (WAL), Dylan McCullough (NZL), Matthew Wright (BAR) and the rest of the chasers.
The unlucky Mislawchuk’s race ended early with a mechanical, while Samuel Dickinson was working well with Yee to keep the pack driving forward and though the gap was never significantly closed down, it was never allowed to grow, and the strong runners behind prepared for what would be a huge 5km chase over two laps ahead.
That was when Wilde’s race took a turn, unclipping his helmet a fraction too early as the dismount line approached, an error that would cost him a 10 second penalty.
Twenty seconds back the chasers were now on foot too, the first climb into the park seeing Reid drop off the front as Wilde and Riddle pushed on. The South African was soon dropped and then passed by Yee as the ascent took its toll, but it was a route the Englishman knew well, and he set about reeling in his rival.
Wilde looked calm onto the blue carpet at the bell, but both he and Yee shrugged off the noise of the crowd to see the penalty board and Wilde’s number marked. Matt Hauser was now 20 seconds back, compatriot Birtwhistle with him, Riddle hanging tough in fifth ahead of Sheldon.
The second climb proved decisive, and by the top Yee was breathing down his rival’s neck, sitting on his shoulder then passing as the blue carpet neared. One more kick from Wilde couldn’t change the outcome, and after another moment of sportsmanship between the pair and a fist bump recognising the battle was won, Wilde peeled off to the penalty box to hope Hauser hadn’t closed in.
For Yee it was a moment to savour, turning to soak up the adoring crowds, flag over the shoulders before grabbing the tape for a first Commonwealth Games gold, Wilde crossing for silver three seconds ahead of Hauser, Birtwhistle and Sheldon closing out the top five, followed over the line by Riddle, McCullough, Reid, Harrett and Canada’s Charles Paquet.
“I saw Jamie Riddle and he looked back and said – what are you doing here, let’s go!,” said Hayden Wilde afterwards. “I said to Matt Hauser before that I’d get on his feet and see what happened and we had a great start. We got 16 seconds on the bike and that was super exciting, and the plan was to have Alex burn his matches catching up and then go for it the last kilometre. Delighted for Alex and Matt, we’re all the same age and it’s great for us at the moment. I was like a dog with a bone up there on the bike, I’ve never not had someone to chase, I just had to keep the watts up and go for it, put everything on the line.”
“Credit to the boys up front they’re some of the best riders in World Triathlon at the moment and I knew we’d need some fresh legs for the run,” said a delighted Hauser. “Hayden had a good sandwich between us and maybe I went out too hard in the swim and died off a bit after the first 300m, but it’s been a bit of a mental switch for me since Tokyo and this result is 6-8 months of hard work, doing more than I ever have before with my coach, and it’s nice to see it coming to good use.”
For the full results click here
Related Event: 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games
|Results: Elite Men|
|Results: Mixed Relay|
|1.||Team I England||ENG||01:16:40|
|2.||Team I Wales||WAL||01:17:26|
|3.||Team I Australia||AUS||01:17:29|
|4.||Team I New Zealand||NZL||01:17:37|
|5.||Team I Scotland||SCO||01:18:35|
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