Tokyo Olympics: Hayden Wilde's epic bronze-winning triathlon race captures hearts back home

Bronze-winning triathlete Hayden Wilde's epic win has captured hearts back in New Zealand as his family watched history unfold in Whakatane.

The 23-year-old finished with a time of 1h 45m 24s, 20 seconds behind winner Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway, and 11 seconds back from second-place-getter Alex Yee of Great Britain.

It's New Zealand's first medal win in Tokyo 2020 and the first triathlon medal since 2008, which was won by Bevan Docherty in Beijing.

After crossing the finish line, Wilde revealed the inspiration behind his bronze.

"That was for my family and for my dad as well. He passed away, like, 12 years ago, so he never got to see me race."

His epic race captured hearts back home as Wilde's family watched history unfold in Whakatane.

A controversial false start raised eyebrows at his local fishing club and around the world.

"I know he could do it coming from the back like that. Sometimes I don't believe, but today, oh my God, just amazing," says his mum Sarah Wilde.

Wilde trailed fellow Kiwi Taylor Reid by 38 seconds in the early stages of the tight and technical cycle leg, but soon upped the ante. In 14th after the cycle, he dug even deeper with all that training paying off.

"He trains on Christmas Day, he trains on his birthday, he trains every blimmin' day. He says, 'I'm having an off day' - that's not an off day for him," says brother Hamish Wilde.

It's been 12 years since New Zealand basked in the glory of an Olympic triathlon medal. Wilde's gutsy race is reminiscent of Bevan Docherty's bronze in Beijing, his earlier silver in Athens in 2004, and Hamish Carter's gold the same year. 

"I think he's just starting. Where he goes from here is up to him but this is a huge step forward, not only from a sense of belief but everything he's doing he's doing really, really well, and he's a contender for one of the best athletes in the world," Carter says.

Wilde is also the talk of the town. His mum was so busy fielding calls from fans and barely had the chance to talk with him after his race.