'Ate pies, played video games' - Wilde's transformation to Olympic medallist

Source: 1News

Hayden Wilde's family have revealed the bronze medal-winning triathlete was once a "chubby" boy who ate pies and played video games, before transforming into the elite athlete who battled the Tokyo heat to achieve Olympic glory.

The 23-year-old Whakatāne native claimed New Zealand's first medal of the Tokyo Olympics this morning in the men's individual triathlon, much to the delight of his family who watched on from his hometown.

While they expected he would be in with a chance with a medal, they recalled the rapid transformation of Wilde from a lazy teen to world-class athlete.

"Hayden as a youngster used to like sausage rolls and pies and curl up on the couch and watch TV. That’s what he did every day after school and play video games. He really only did other sport because his older brothers did," Wilde's mum Sarah told 1 NEWS.

"He was a comfortable little boy who likes sausages, now look at him."

Hayden Wilde displays his bronze medal after the men's triathlon in Tokyo.

Older brother Hamish had the same recollections, recalling Hayden as a "small, chubby boy" in his younger years.

"He never had that thing to him until the last few years. Covid was a massive thing for him as he was able to improve on his swim and he tried to qualify for New Zealand in the 5000m as well and that was simply to improve his last 5000m [in the triathlon]," Hamish said.

"We thought he was going to play cricket, football and carry on like he did but he went down to see our uncle for two weeks in Greymouth and he’s a mountain biker so Hayden started getting the bug for it a little bit and started running and said this is my thing.

"It’s been a crazy progression because he only decided to take this up four or five years ago."

Even Wilde himself was impressed by his rapid rise, telling 1 NEWS he only became a full-time professional three years ago.

"If I look back three years ago I was actually landscaping, building walls and just trying to make a dollar to go to races and actually put myself into the Commonwealth Games circle. To actually get to the start line here is pretty emotional," Wilde said.

Those hoping to celebrate with Wilde in Whakatāne will have to wait a little while though, as the triathlete is busy competing around the world for the rest of the year following his time in Tokyo.

One thing he will have with him on his journey - an Olympic bronze medal.

WATCH THE OLYMPICS: TVNZ 1 and TVNZ OnDemand feature 12 hours of free-to-air action focussed on Kiwi athletes each afternoon and evening, while Sky TV has Olympics coverage across 12 channels and streaming platforms.