The Kiwi led for most of the day and an epic finish was perfectly set up when Yee joined him at the front on the closing stages of the run.
But then the news came through with just 1k to go that Wilde had picked up a 10-second penalty for an infringement in T2, and it allowed Yee to surge clear to claim a brilliant victory.
Penalties remember have been a high-profile side dish to elite short-course racing throughout 2022, and they proved utterly crucial again here.
Swim – Great start for Wilde
We found out before the start at 1101 local time that 2018 champion Henri Schoeman would not be taking part, meaning no standout swimmer in the field.
It was the Kiwi pair of Tayler Reid and big gun Wilde who led the way when the field got into the water at Sutton Park in Birmingham.
Reid and Wilde exited pretty much together (8:34) while Jamie Riddle of South Africa was also in great shape after following a fine swim with a terrific transition through T1.
Wilde’s huge rival meanwhile, Team England superstar Yee, was 15 seconds behind the Kiwi as the field headed out onto the 20k bike leg.
Bike – Hayden maintains control
Wilde, Reid and Riddle set off at the front of the field after hurtling through T1, on a mission to take total control of this showpiece race. Yee and fellow English star Dan Dixon were deep in the chase pack led by Sam Dickinson.
The good news for those chasers early on the bike leg was that the gap was not growing – holding at around 12 seconds. The next swing would be an important one.
Wilde continued to do most of the work at the front of the field with Riddle and Reid, while the chase group were taking it in turns to lead the pursuit. The gap at the end of Lap 1 of 4 on the bike was 16 seconds – very little change from the swim.
Lap 2 saw the relentless Wilde continuing to really push the pace, but there was disaster for another leading contender Tyler Mislawchuk as he exited the race.
At halfway in the bike leg Wilde’s aggression was paying dividends, the gap between that front three and the chasing pack headed by Yee had now expanded to 21 seconds.
Lap 3 saw status quo again with that front pack of Wilde, Riddle and Reid looking to do more damage. Their main problem at this stage was negotiating lapped riders.
The gap had shrunk slightly by the end of the lap, with now 18 seconds to that pack which included Yee. More was needed on the crucial final bike lap, with that 5k run then still to come.
The front three danced with disaster on Lap 4 when Riddle’s front wheel almost touched the back wheel of Wilde but catastrophe was narrowly averted.
Wilde, Reid and Riddle were all together heading into T2, as they had been for the entire day so far. The gap though had come down again slightly – Yee now trailed by 16 seconds as he exited onto the run. Could he somehow run down the leaders? We were about to find out.
Run – Wilde pays penalty
Wilde was quickly at the front on the 5k run, with Riddle keeping pace. Reid, though, started to fall away quickly as Yee set about cutting into the gap.
Wilde continued to be utterly relentless at the head of affairs as he began to build a gap to Riddle. The question now was whether Yee somehow produce a run for the ages to get into gold medal contention.
Towards the end of the first of two run laps and Yee had moved past Reid and Riddle into second. Silver seemed almost guaranteed, but was gold out of the question?
As the front two reached the halfway point on the run Yee – now just seven seconds behind – had Wilde firmly in his sights and an epic final 2.5km lung-bursting sprint for gold was perfectly set up. Behind them Mattie Hauser of Australia was currently in possession of the bronze medal position.
Onto the closing run lap and Wilde, despite having that lead cut back to just a few seconds, was still looking calm and collected as the Englishman tried desperately to get back on terms. Right now he wasn’t quite close enough to strike.
Yee continued to really push to try and close that gap to within striking distance and the gap halved in a heartbeat as Alex really pushed on the uphill stretch heading into the closing stages. Then, there he was, right on the shoulder of the Kiwi.
Now Yee was happy to sit on the shoulder of Wilde heading into the finishing burst, what a race we had to kick off these Commonwealth Games.
Then, catastrophe for Wilde as he was informed he had been given a 10-second time penalty, which pretty much handed the gold to Yee. Sad to have such a potentially great finish scuppered by that. Wilde’s penalty was for unclipping his bike helmet too early in T2.
Wilde pulled clear and onto the blue carpet to take his penalty, waving Yee past to go on and claim the gold. He crossed the line to an incredible reception from a huge home crowd. Hauser meanwhile claimed a fine bronze for Australia.
Another Aussie in the shape of Jacob Birtwhistle claimed fourth while Scotland’s Grant Sheldon took a brilliant fifth-place finish.
Commonwealth Games Triathlon Results
Elite Men – Friday July 29, 2022, Birmingham
Sprint Distance – 750m/20k/5k
- 1. Alex Yee (ENG) – 50:34
- 2. Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 50:47
- 3. Matthew Hauser (AUS) – 50:50
- 4. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) – 51:06
- 5. Grant Sheldon (SCO) – 51:24
- 6. Jamie Riddle (RSA) – 51:32
- 7. Dylan McCullough (NZL) – 51:35
- 8. Tayler Reid (NZL) – 51:45
- 9. Iestyn Harrett (WAL) – 51:51
- 10. Charles Paquet (CAN) – 51:58