Dominant Brownlee intent on continuing historic rise

England's Alistair Brownlee crosses the line after winning the Mixed Team Relay at Strathclyde Country Park during the 2014 Commonwealth Games near Glasgow.
England's Alistair Brownlee crosses the line after winning the Mixed Team Relay at Strathclyde Country Park during the 2014 Commonwealth Games near Glasgow.
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It is hard to imagine a more complete athlete than Alistair Brownlee.

Not just for the fact that he competes in a sport that requires excellence across three endurance disciplines that test differing aspects of physique.

But because he has stood at the top of that sport since his late teens and into his mid-twenties.

Because he has the full set of major triathlon titles; Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth.

And because of his unwavering work ethic and ability to bounce back from injury and still beat all-comers.

And to top it all, Brownlee does it with a smile on his face and a Yorkshire flag draped around his shoulders.

There are few athletes as humbled to wear the White Rose as Brownlee, and few sporting heroes this county looks up to with as much pride as the champion triathlete.

It is no wonder he has been voted for by you, the Yorkshire public, into third-place in our search for the county’s Sports Hero of 2014.

Without giving too many spoilers away as we continue the countdown to the great unveiling of our winner on Saturday, he is the highest-placed sports star competing as an individual in this year’s poll.

For the third time in the four years The Yorkshire Post has conducted this survey, he finds himself in the top three.

No-one can match that consistency. Not Jessica Ennis. Not Nicola Adams. Not Kevin Sinfield.

When he looks back on 2014, Brownlee does so with enormous pride, a comfort level he has earned himself in each of the last six years, dating back to his first world title in 2009.

There was no world title this year, injury last winter saw to that.

But there was an historic first Commonwealth Games gold medal for England in the individual triathlon, and then two days later – with the screaming pain in his legs countered only by the adrenalin surging through his body – a second gold in the company of his brother, who at last could share in the joy of the top step of a major event podium.

Jonny Brownlee garnered a good number of votes in this year’s poll, as he always does.

He had a better year in the World Series, winning more races than his brother, but the 24-year-old is still playing catch-up, even if the gap is closing.

The defining moment was the Commonwealth Games triathlon.

On a glorious day in Glasgow, in temperatures more Spanish Riviera than Scottish riverfront, the Brownlees controlled the race throughout the swim and the bike leg, before Alistair took charge in the run for home.

His lead was so comfortable by the end that he was able to grab a White Rose flag from the crowd as he raised the tape aloft, before turning and clapping his brother across the line into second.

“I’m fortunate; I’ve won the world title, I’ve won the Olympic title and to complete the set with the Commonwealth title as well, that’s the most important thing for me,” said the 26-year-old.

“They’re the big three in Olympic-distance triathlon so it’s perfect, it’s far more than I ever could have dreamed of.”

And he even had the confidence to fire a warning to his competitors.

“It’s fantastic to have completed the set but in no way does that make me any less competitive,” he said. “Stick me on a start-line and whether it’s a training session on a rainy Saturday morning in Leeds or a Commonwealth Games on a very hot Thursday in Glasgow, it doesn’t matter, I’m still very competitive.

“More than anything, injuries have taught me that I love what I do, I love being on the start-line and I love being able to compete. I can’t really see the appeal of that going even if I’m not able to win races.”

So what next for Yorkshire’s greatest living athlete?

If anything, the Commonwealth Games has reignited his desire for triathlon, a sport for which he is the standard bearer and poster boy.

His hopes of running the 10,000 metres this year, something he targeted in the wake of his majestic victory at London 2012, never materialised because of injuries and the paucity of such events.

So it is back to triathlon and chasing down more historic deeds.

In 2015 his single-minded goal is to regain the world title he last won in 2011 over the eight-race series from April to September.

Spain’s Javier Gomez – the only athlete to compare with the Brownlees over the last half-decade – is the reigning champion, while closer to home, the challenge from younger brother Jonny gets more intense each year.

In 2016, he has what would be an historic second Olympic triathlon gold medal to win.

Do not be surprised if Alistair is successful on both fronts and figures prominently in this reader poll in each of the next two winters.

Alistair Brownlee takes great pride in being champion of his sport and a champion in Yorkshire.

He is a worthy recipient of third place in this year’s search for The Yorkshire Post Sports Hero of 2014.

The countdown to the No 1 Sports Hero – which will be revealed on Saturday – continues tomorrow with your second-placed choice.

The winner of our competition to win a pair of hospitality tickets to day two of the Test match between England and New Zealand at Headingley Carnegie on 
Saturday, May 30, will also be revealed on Saturday.