Our search for the county’s Sports Star of 2012, as voted for by our readers, has been an intriguing one. Here we reveal the third-placed finisher, Alistair Brownlee. Nick Westby reports.
Perhaps because his sport is not mainstream enough, perhaps because he invariably splits the vote with his equally brilliant brother, but Alistair Brownlee has never quite received the acclaim for which his astounding accomplishments warrant.
He was overlooked for a place on the shortlist for the BBC’s industry-leading Sports Personality of the Year last week.
And even in our modest poll, the world’s best triathlete has only come third, though for me, he would be No 1.
Alistair Brownlee is as good as anyone at swimming, cycling and running. Put those three disciplines together, and you have a collossus of the most exacting test of stamina and desire, as he proved so thrillingly through Hyde Park and around Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, August 7.
The 24-year-old from Bramhope, in Leeds, became Britain’s first winner of the Olympic triathlon title when he won the race convincingly at London 2012.
Such was his dominance of the race, his vice-like grip on the rest of the field, that he even had time to worry about his younger brother, Jonny, who had been charged with a minor infraction and would have to serve a 15-second penalty.
All along, Alistair had not just wanted to win the Olympic title for himself, he wanted his 22-year-old training partner, brother and best friend to share the podium with him.
And that is what sets these two fine young men apart from the rest – their dual dominance.
They are the two-headed beast that has transformed the landscape of their chosen sport, changing practices and tormenting opponents, who do not know whether to greet them as individual terror or a unified machine.
Every individual sport has a dominant force, but to have two brothers at the very top is almost unheard of. The only comparison can be tennis’s Williams’s sisters.
Like Venus, Alistair, the eldest, has been the trailblazer. In time, Serena became the better player, winning more grand slam titles.
The fascinating dynamic between the Brownlee brothers is how their sporting relationship will evolve over the coming years.
While Alistair already has Olympic, world and European titles, Jonny has begun to catch up, with the bronze he won behind his brother in Hyde Park, now complemented by the season-long world title he clinched in New Zealand two months ago.
With the man who split them in London – Spain’s Javier Gomez – 29 and running out of time, Jonny is the greatest threat to Alistair over the coming years.
Alistair, though, is already on the lookout for fresh challenges. He is planning to do longer triathlons in Abu Dhabi next Spring, and is also considering adding the track 10,000m to his repertoire by the time of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
But that is the future.
This is 2012, British sport’s unforgettable year, and what a marvelous chapter Alistair penned.
He has been voted for by you – taking 22 per cent of the public vote – because of what he accomplished this year.
It had all started so worryingly for him. In February, Alistair tore his Achilles tendon.
Friends, family and observers looked on concerned, with fears rising all the time that even if it might not necessarily rule him out of the Olympics, it could easily hamper his preparations.
But an unruffled Alistair merely sat his weakened foot in a protective boot and refused to panic.
When the rehabilitation needed speeding up, he upset his neighbours by having a pool built into his back garden so he could aqua jog. It is hardly the most masculine of pursuits, but if it meant he could get back into training on the roads of West Yorkshire quicker, it would be worth it.
And it was. He was back competing by May, looking for all the world like he had never been away.
Alistair only raced two meaningful individual races this year, one in Kitzbuhel, then the Olympic final. He won them both. Timing is everything in sport.
Something else that strikes a chord with the regular man in the street is that the two Brownlees are just that, regular men.
They train harder than anyone, but they do it in the county they grew up in. They are grounded and humble, admirable and amenable young men to be around.
Here are just some of the reasons why people voted for Alistair to be the Yorkshire Post’s Sports Star of 2012.
“Just has to be Alistair Brownlee,” began one voter. “Who else do we see winning a world championship draped in a Yorkshire flag, running the Chevin Chase and other local races with us normal folk, out cycling in the lanes and chatting in the cafes of Yorkshire with his friends, encouraging the kids to get into sport and bestowing the virtues of our great county to the world?”
Another emailed voter wrote: “Alistair Brownlee for the following reasons; for winning the first GB Olympic medal in triathlon despite developing a serious injury in January and the immense expectation of his sport, the brave way he changed the way triathlons are raced, the way he has dominated the sport for three years, his enormous dedication to encourage children to participate in sport and his enormous pride and love for Yorkshire.”
Another wrote: “Alistair is an inspiration to all young people, not only athletes. He deserves to be recognised all over the country but particularly in Yorkshire.”
Alistair Brownlee is a worthy recipient of third place in the search for the Yorkshire Post Sports Star of 2012. He has been a giant in his sport for four years and at just 24 and with the Olympic gold medal already tucked away in his possession, he has the ability, the work ethic and the temperament to go on and have many more fantastic years.
He may win our award one day. But not this year. Two people have beaten him. Our champion, and recipient of the award sponsored by Jackson Trophies – plus our competition winner – will be revealed on Saturday. Tomorrow, find out who finished second.