Alex Yee delivers Team England’s first Commonwealth Games gold in triathlon: ‘My greatest achievement ever’

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Alex Yee delivers Team England’s first Commonwealth Games gold in triathlon: ‘My greatest achievement ever’
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Alex Yee won the first gold medal of the Commonwealth Games for Team England in a thrilling head-to-head battle with Hayden Wilde in the men’s triathlon.

The sprint event looked destined for a race to the line but that was denied when Wilde was given a 10-second penalty for a transgression with his helmet in the transition from the bike to the run.

Whether Yee, the better runner of the two, would have won a sprint to the line was a moot point but the Olympic silver medallist had managed to claw back pre-event co-favourite Wilde’s 16sec advantage over the course of the 5km run.

And in any case the 24-year-old Londoner said he would have been confident of winning a sprint finish. He said: “We’ll never know. Maybe we’ll see in a race in the future but I always back myself on the runs.”

Yee and Wilde have been the class apart this year in the World Triathlon Series with two wins apiece, including the New Zealander’s controversial victory in Leeds in June.

Wilde admitted fault and apologised for causing a bike crash which brought down both Yee and Jonny Brownlee, which resulted in Brownlee missing Birmingham 2022 with a broken elbow.

 (PA)
(PA)

The punishment for Wilde looked tough but he was gracious enough to congratulate rival Yee before heading into the booth for his 10sec penalty at the end.

Yee has never been the strongest of swimmers and, after the opening 750m leg, he was 16secs behind a leading trio of Wilde, fellow Kiwi Tayler Reid and South African Jamie Riddle.

That was stretched out as much as 21secs, but was cut down to just 16 by the time bike had turned into run. Yee insisted he still believed gold was possible. “I never gave up,” he said. ”I knew this course is tough, the hill can kill you every single time. So for me I knew that if I was able to push on that hill, there was a chance I would catch him.”

With Yee and Wilde well matched for their personal bests over 5km, it seemed mission impossible but, buoyed by the home crowd, he somehow caught up with Wilde.

Commonwealth Games 2022: Best Pictures

England’s Alex Yee celebrates after winning the Men’ Individual (Sprint Distance) Final at Sutton Park (PA)
England’s Alex Yee celebrates after winning the Men’ Individual (Sprint Distance) Final at Sutton Park (PA)
Lesotho’s Qhobosheane Mohlerepe (right)  and Cyprus’ Odysseas Atmatzidis during the Men’s Over 60kg-63.5kg (Light Welter) - Round of 32 at The NEC on day one of 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. (PA)
Lesotho’s Qhobosheane Mohlerepe (right) and Cyprus’ Odysseas Atmatzidis during the Men’s Over 60kg-63.5kg (Light Welter) - Round of 32 at The NEC on day one of 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. (PA)
England’s Adam Peaty trains at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham, on the day before the swimming competition begins at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (AFP via Getty Images)
England’s Adam Peaty trains at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham, on the day before the swimming competition begins at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (AFP via Getty Images)
Grace Crompton of Team England breaks past Anusha Attanayaka of Team Sri Lanka to score a try during the Women’s Rugby Sevens Pool A match between Team England and Team Sri Lanka on day one of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games (Getty Images)
Grace Crompton of Team England breaks past Anusha Attanayaka of Team Sri Lanka to score a try during the Women’s Rugby Sevens Pool A match between Team England and Team Sri Lanka on day one of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games (Getty Images)
South Africa’s Muhammad Khaalid Mia rotation Parallel Bars of the Men’s Team Final and Individual Qualification, Subdivision One at Arena Birmingham on day one of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (PA)
South Africa’s Muhammad Khaalid Mia rotation Parallel Bars of the Men’s Team Final and Individual Qualification, Subdivision One at Arena Birmingham on day one of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (PA)
England’s Tom Bowen in action with Samoa’s Steve Onosai (REUTERS)
England’s Tom Bowen in action with Samoa’s Steve Onosai (REUTERS)
Fireworks explode above the the Alexander Stadium during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games (AFP via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode above the the Alexander Stadium during the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games (AFP via Getty Images)
Athletes of Team England take part during the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Alexander Stadium (Getty Images)
Athletes of Team England take part during the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Alexander Stadium (Getty Images)
Athletes gather round The Bull during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham (PA)
Athletes gather round The Bull during the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium, Birmingham (PA)
Team England in action during qualifying (REUTERS)
Team England in action during qualifying (REUTERS)
Singapore’s Tianwei Feng in action during her team group stage match against England’s Tin-Tin Ho (REUTERS)
Singapore’s Tianwei Feng in action during her team group stage match against England’s Tin-Tin Ho (REUTERS)

By the end of the first 2.5km lap of the run, the lead was down to seven seconds, by which point Yee looked up at the big screen to see what he thought initially was a penalty to his name. He later realised it was for Wilde, which enabled him to cut back his pace marginally but he still caught the Kiwi within the final kilometre.

Afterwards, Yee paid tribute to his English team-mates for helping him keep in the hunt on the bike leg and said: “It’s bizarre it’s me doing this. I feel extremely proud today. I’m super proud to be the winner of this great event. I would say this is my greatest achievement ever.

“It’s a bit of a fairytale isn’t it? I’ve worked hard for this. This is special because I get to share it with so many people. It’s home, it’s the first race of the Games, this is totally unique and I don’t think there’ll be an opportunity in my life to get to do this again.”

Team England’s hopes of making it a double gold in the women’s event looked promising as Georgia Taylor-Brown went head to head with Flora Duffy in a repeat of the Olympic Games.

But the result was the same as Duffy, Bermuda’s first Olympic champion, pulled clear going from bike ro run and stretched out that advantage for a comfortable win.

Taylor-Brown appeared to be struggling far more with the heat on the run, twice having to douse herself in water to bring down her body temperature and lost 16seconds on the first 2.5kilometres of the 5km run alone.

Following her silver, Taylor-Brown said: “I just didn’t have the legs today. I felt flat all day. Considering how I felt before the race I’m extra happy with the silver medal. It was incredible out there. But I’m a bit bored of coming second to Flora so we need to change that.”

Former track athlete Beth Potter had led the swim but the Scot fell back in the cycle before unsurprisingly clawing her way back on the run for the bronze.

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