Hayden Wilde has compared his battle with Alex Yee for the World Triathlon Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi to Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen's tussle for the Formula One title.
The New Zealander made his intent clear by skipping two races to arrive in the capital city four weeks early to prepare for the event that takes place from November 23 to 26 on Yas Island.
The race will see all three 2020 Olympic medallists in action. Wilde has leapfrogged both Blummenfelt and Lee to find himself No 1 in the world rankings, with Yee not far behind in fourth.
French European champion Leo Bergere is second and Belgian Jelle Geens, who took gold in the 2021 Abu Dhabi race, ranked third.
“It’s going to be a great competition between myself and Alex Yee,” Wilde said at the launch ceremony of the world finals at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council headquarters on Tuesday.
“It’s like the Hamilton and Verstappen race and I’m really looking forward to it. Whoever crosses the line will take the championship world title. We’ve had a great rivalry, so to unite and finish in Abu Dhabi is awesome. Hopefully, we can put on an exciting show.”
Wilde had to settle for bronze behind Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt and Lee at the Tokyo Olympics. Lee also beat Wilde for the gold in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July with the Englishman hailing that win as his “greatest achievement” even though he had previously won silver in Tokyo.
"Adding a world title to our achievements is a big thing to triathletes,” Wilde said.
“Winning an Olympic medal is what we strive for, but a world title isn’t just one race, its consistency. To join the likes of Vincent Luis is a huge feat and doing it here would be amazing.’’
Wilde said a lot of people had told him it was a risky way to do it ahead of a race with a lot at stake. “It’s a good risk to take with the races I missed are in Europe and Bermuda that requires a lot of travelling,” he added.
“I had made plans and that was to come four weeks ahead of the race in Abu Dhabi and maximize the advantage by adapting to the weather conditions and surroundings.
“I have raced with a lot of these athletes over the last many years and am aware of the challenges. Aside from that, the conditions, the heat and humidity, and the surface that’s a lot grippier and takes a lot more energy. This is why I have come early to experience all that together.”
In the women’s event, Tokyo gold medalist Flora Duffy will be up against current world No 1 Georgia Taylor-Brown of Britain – the woman she pushed into silver medal position in Japan.
The Bermudian also took gold in Abu Dhabi last year and will be looking to add to her long list of accomplishments that includes multiple world titles and Commonwealth gold.
Britain will bring a typically strong line-up to Abu Dhabi, headed by Taylor-Brown, along with fourth-ranked Beth Potter, and seventh-ranked Sophie Coldwell.
The United States will also have three of the world’s top 10 on display in the form of fifth-ranked Taylor Spivey, along with Taylor Knibb and Kirsten Kasper, who are ninth and tenth in the standings, respectively.
Aref Hamad Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said the capital city is delighted to host the World Triathlon Championship Finals for the first time.
“Since 2015, we have hosted a series of international triathlon championships, and have organised community races for all ages and abilities, which has led to a significant growth in interest in the sport of triathlon,” he said.
"Now in 2022, we are poised to host the World Triathlon Championship Finals, with the participation of 130 elite triathletes.”
Mohammed Abdalla Al Zaabi, Group CEO of Miral, added: “We are excited to host the World Triathlon Championship Finals, reiterating our commitment to position Yas Island as a top global destination for leisure and entertainment.”
For more information please visit: abudhabi.triathlon.org.