Jonny Brownlee believes clinching the world title in Auckland this weekend will prove he is a formidable force in his own right.
The 22-year-old from Leeds has lived in the shadow of his older brother Alistair all through his triathlon career.
Such a fact has never hindered the younger Brownlee – far from it – with Jonny grabbing onto Alistair’s coat tails as the two became the dominant duo in the individual sport.
Jonny won bronze in the London 2012 triathlon in August as his brother made history as the country’s first Olympic gold medallist in the sport.
Last year Jonny pushed Alistair all the way in pursuit of the season-long World Series title, which the elder sibling won for a second time.
But with Alistair absent for much of the first half of this season as he nursed an Achilles injury to full health, Jonny won the World Series triathlons in Madrid and San Diego to set up the title tilt.
Another win in Stockholm following the Olympics cemented his position in the race to win the title in New Zealand this weekend, a feat that would complete a unique double of Olympic and world champions from the same family.
Victory would be a significant boon for Jonny’s own career, even if he accepts that Alistair may still be regarded as the best in the business.
“I’m not convinced it will show the world I’m stepping out of his shadow but I think it will show the world that I’m a force in my own right,” Jonny told the Yorkshire Post.
“I think I have showed the world that I can do it without him. It would be good to have an athlete like him – fast swimmer and strong biker which will suit the Auckland course – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be him.”
If Jonny, pictured left, is to win the world title, he will have to do it alone, with his brother taking some well-deserved time off.
The two of them regularly work together during triathlons, and although Alistair has been a sounding board, Jonny is confident in his own abilities.
Olympic silver medallist and former world champion Javier Gomez is the big threat to his chances but Jonny said: “For sure, Alistair and I work together in training and have the same mentality to race hard from the hooter, but he’s only raced a couple of times this year, and I’ve won in San Diego, Madrid and Stockholm.
“He has told me to approach the race like any other and not to think about ‘just getting the job done’ and doing enough to beat Gomez. What I learned from the Olympics is that this is just another race. That’s the mentality you have to go in with, not to build it up in your head too much.
“And just like every race, concentrate throughout, to do your best and try to win.
“I don’t want to race calculating how many points I need as I run around. I will try and approach it like I have done for every other race this year.
“I’m planning to race as I always do, to win. It’s been a long season but I’m ready for one last push.
“I think it will be very competitive. Javier raced amazingly well in London and was second recently in Yokohama so he will be challenging as usual. There are some lads coming into late-season form after a disappointing summer, you can never write off the consistent Russians and, as I know from my own experience this summer with the amazing crowds in Hyde Park, the Kiwis will be well supported which will give them a lift.
“I’d expect the swim to be fast and then we’ll see if the packs break up on the challenging bike course.
“The run will be a bit more tactical because Alistair isn’t there hammering it from the go.”
Should he secure the victory it would cap a remarkable year for the Brownlee family, one that even in their own all-conquering manner they are unlikely to repeat. Both have indicated they want to compete in the triathlon at the next Olympics in Rio but before that, Alistair is considering exploring the 10,000m, possibly as early as the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Jonny may well be the man to beat in the triathlon two years later in Rio, and if so, winning the Grand Final in Auckland this weekend would be a major feather in the cap.
“It would be amazing to be crowned world champion,” said Brownlee, who needs to win to ensure he claims the title. “I’ve won a couple of world sprint titles and also the world Under-23, but to be able to call myself world champion would just be fantastic.
“It used to be a one-off race, like my other titles, but the world champion is really the most consistent athlete throughout the whole year. Hopefully a good performance in Auckland will bear that out.”