Podcast #41: Alistair Brownlee
Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee may not be going to Tokyo to defend his Olympic title on 26 July, but he will be there to cheer on his brother’s bid for an unprecedented third Olympic triathlon medal.
It was at World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds that the second male spot on the GB team effectively went to race winner Alex Yee, with Brownlee admitting he wasn’t fully fit on the start line, the decision to race ruled more by heart than head. In this week’s podcast, the double Olympic Champion talks about that race, handing over the baton to Yee and his future plans after recuperating from ankle surgery.
“In sport, things change quickly. In 2009, I effectively went from some young kid who was an underdog to the favourite in every race that I was going to stand on the start line and in lots of ways, that was the same almost for the next decade. It’s something you have to learn to deal with and adapt to.”
Propelled into the spotlight, Alistair Brownlee was suddenly the face of a huge surge in triathlon’s popularity in the UK, the unexpected pressures of becoming a household name clearly made easier with a brother around to share it all with.
“It was fantastic to go through most of that with Jonny… traveling together, going to races, dealing with a lot of the same kind of stresses as well as expectations but, at the same time, dealing with a level of interest in triathlon that never in a million years would we have thought could be.”
“And in lots of ways we were phenomenally lucky. We stood on the start line of two Olympic Games next to each other in great shape, knowing that we couldn’t really do much more or be in a better position and shared a quiet joke of, ‘yeah, we’d better not mess this up’ and then get on with going out and racing.”
As for being in Tokyo to see his brother chase a third Olympic medal, Alistair knows he could still have an important support role to play for Jonny on 26 July.
“I can obviously offer a little bit of advice and support and do what I can. But at the end of the day, he is the one that’s standing on that start line. And he’s the one that’s got to go out there and race. I think it’s really important he makes those decisions about what he has to do to get there and in the best possible shape so ultimately you can stand there confident knowing that he’s doing everything he can and he should go out and perform.”
Looking back to WTCS Leeds, there is little doubt that it was the lure of a possible fourth Olympic Games that made him take to a start line that, deep down, he possibly knew was going to be a race too far for his ankle.
“No, I wasn’t very fit on the Leeds start line. I had kind of three months of hell leading up into that, knowing that I had this ankle problem… and just doing absolutely everything I could to be in a half decent shape to try and perform and ultimately, it didn’t work out. You know, a bit of me thought in the lead up to it that, actually, I just shouldn’t race. There were probably not a lot of positives that could come out of it.”
“To be honest, over the last three months I’ve asked myself why, you know, why did I even try get back to the Olympics? I knew being older, slightly slower I found it harder to do that quick work. I knew that even if I got to the start line in Tokyo in the best possible kind of shape I could have got to, I knew I wouldn’t be where it was at for Rio or London. Then obviously I got injured and that was really frustrating and gave me months of stress. And I asked myself why, why had I done it? And that’s the power of sport and the Olympic Games… I did it because I love competing in triathlon at the top of the sport.”
As for Alex Yee, the man currently on top of the men’s world rankings and possibly taking the anchor leg in the GB mixed relay, Brownlee knows the future of the sport is in good hands.
“He’s an absolutely fantastic athlete… it was only a matter of time until he produced a performance like that. That was a real kind of breakthrough performance for him. And I think he’s really put himself in a great position to be one of the people who we can really look at for the Olympic Games.”
Listen to the full podcast below and you can watch back the men’s race from WTCS Leeds on TriathlonLive.tv.
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06:01 - 06 Jun, 2021
06:03 - 09 May, 2020
In front of a home crowd and on the streets where he was born and raised, Alistair Brownlee was able to score the first-ever 2016 Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds title and his first WTS victory of the season.05:26 - 12 Jun, 2016