Hayden Wilde's progress to the elite Olympic level of New Zealand triathletes has taken a rapid ascent.
The 20-year-old Tauranga-based athlete last month had two Top 12 ITU World Cup finishes in China that qualified him for Triathlon NZ's Tier 3 funding, and into the high performance under-23 programme.
The performances against a world-class field lifted Wilde to number three on the New Zealand male triathlon rankings and inside the top 100 in the world for the first time at number 70.
"I am really happy to finally crack the high performance team which means I get quite a lot of help from Triathlon NZ, so am looking forward to working with them and their squads," Wilde said.
Last Friday he left for Europe for three months to pursue the European summer of triathlon events, including the highly acclaimed World Triathlon Series (WTS) in Hamburg in July.
Included is a high performance camp in Spain where he will train with New Zealand's top triathletes for a month.
"WTS is the pinnacle of triathlon with only eight held around the world and I am on the waiting list to be one of the New Zealanders to race in Hamburg," Wilde says.
"Only the top 100 in the world are allowed to qualify and only five from your country are asked to race. It all comes down to your ranking and who enters."
Last year at the ASTC Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup in Japan he competed in three events, finishing seventh, fourth and third against top class fields.
"Asia cups are where you first get your points and now I have moved on to world cups. A lot of Olympians use world cups as opportunities to get prize money and stuff but the one everyone wants to get into is the WTS," Wilde says.
"That's where most of the top Olympians compete so the WTS has been my goal to get into and hopefully I can get some more opportunities next year."
Wilde's success has all happened in just his second season competing solely in triathlons. He has four world multisport titles, eight half marathon victories and 10 national multisport and triathlon titles to his name but the lure of the 2020 Olympics in Japan meant the switch to triathlon.
Two years ago he moved from Whakatane to Tauranga and with the expert help of Liz van Welie Aquatics and Craig Kirkwood Coaching has made giant strides towards that Olympic dream.
"I have had a few talks with the high performance guys and at the start of next year the selection races for the Olympic Games will be happening. It is pretty cool that they are having a little talk with me about what races to attack and stuff," Wilde says.
"It looks like from there I might be a potential person to take one of the spots but at the end of the day it all depends on how your race performance goes. There are five of us on the high performance team all after the spots.
"I am also looking forward to the Port of Tauranga Half and the Super Sprint Triathlons at Mount Maunganui next summer."