Ironman Alistair Brownlee setting new goals with Games on back-burner

A SECOND Olympic gold, victory in the Leeds leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series and runner-up as BBC Sports Personality Of The Year.
Leeds's Alistair Brownlee.Leeds's Alistair Brownlee.
Leeds's Alistair Brownlee.

Yet Leeds triathlon star Alistair Brownlee is still reluctant to describe 2016 as his best year – speaking volumes about other previous achievements.

After all, the Dewsbury-born athlete made his Olympic debut aged 20 at Beijing 2008 and then enjoyed a dream second Games by bagging gold in his home London 2012 Olympics aged 24.

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After securing a second Olympic gold at his third Olympics as a 28-year-old in Rio, the Yorkshireman’s desire to focus on alternative goals such as Ironman pursuits have been well chronicled.

The Ironman Triathlon event comprising a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run ought to be well suited to an athlete clearly made of solid stuff.

Yet under no circumstances does that mean Brownlee’s Olympic days are behind him with the triathlete refusing to rule out the prospect of a fourth Olympics at Tokyo 2020 when the Leeds star will be 32.

Asked if the next Games extravaganza in Japan was part of his long-term thinking, Brownlee mused: “I think it is. I guess it is better described as I am not saying it’s not!

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“I think it’s quite healthy for me at the moment not to give it too much thought that I am definitely going to be there and I am going to be a bit more relaxed about it.

“Four years is a long way off – I have done three Olympics which has been fantastic and I think it’s good for me just to have a bit more of an open view of it and be a bit more relaxed. But I think I probably do want to be there so we will see.”

Brownlee’s super 2016 achievements were there for all to see at last month’s BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Award in which the Leeds star was named runner-up behind World no 1 tennis star Andy Murray.

The triathlete felt that his own place on the 16-strong shortlist was by and large down to his act of brotherly love when dragging exhausted sibling Jonathan over the finish line of the Mexico leg of the ITU World Series in September, sacrificing his own chances of victory in the process.

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Nevertheless, a second Olympic gold – after a series of injuries – and a memorable ITU Series win in Leeds meant 2016 was still quite some year.

“I’m not sure if I’d describe it as the best,” mused Brownlee.

“Obviously it has been fantastic and I set the aim of winning the Olympics and that was my big thing that I was going out trying to achieve.

“To have done that feels really good and, obviously, that made it really, really special.

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“Then there’s the fact that it has been a tough few years as well with injuries and stuff and it’s just felt like a massive personal achievement, I guess. It has been absolutely great.

“Leeds was obviously another highlight and having the World Series in Leeds was fantastic – being able to race in front of those home crowds was really, really special for me so I enjoyed that a lot.

“Athletically, I think it’s hard to describe it as my best year because I’ve had lots of good years but I achieved the Olympic aim which is what I set out to do so I am pleased with that.”

The aims are now very different as 2017 swings into gear with Brownlee set to broaden his horizons similar to 5,000m and 10,000m Olympics champion and fellow SPOTY nominee Mo Farah – the athlete Brownlee would have voted for had he had the chance – who is thinking of moving up to the marathon distance.

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Rest assured, though, that the Leeds leg of the ITU World Series in June definitely features on Brownlee’s agenda.

“I am definitely not going to do the whole series,” said Brownlee.

“I am going to do ones that suit me, I guess, and one of those is in Leeds, obviously. Then I will be looking at some other kind of racing.”

Most Ironman events have a time limit of 17 hours to compete the event and Brownlee said: “It is obviously very long and extreme but we will see. I will probably not be going that extreme next year!”