Gold medal not likely to hold back Brownlee’s ambition - have your say

Alistair and Jonathan  Brownlee signing autographs for young swimmers at their old club Aireborough Swimming Club, Aireborough Leisure Centre, Guiseley
Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee signing autographs for young swimmers at their old club Aireborough Swimming Club, Aireborough Leisure Centre, Guiseley
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Alistair Brownlee insists the desire to succeed still burns bright as he begins his first season as Olympic champion.

The 24-year-old from Leeds was a picture of contentment after fulfilling his lifetime ambition by winning gold through the streets of London last summer.

He readily acknowledges his career is unlikely to peak as high again, even if he defends his Olympic title in Rio in 2016.

In order to keep motivated this year he is challenging himself at longer-distance triathlons – starting with the one-off Abu Dhabi International on Saturday – and he is still keen to explore running the 10,000m on the track ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

On top of that, his insatiable appetite for racing means reclaiming the triathlon world series title that his younger brother Jonny won last year, is also a high on his wish list.

“I’ve definitely still got a lot of the drive,” said the elder Brownlee. “It’s very different this year though, in that I feel like if I ever wanted to win one race then it was London and I’ve done that, so that contentment is there and I feel like I’m completely happy with what I’ve achieved.

“But yes, I’ve still got the drive to keep on achieving. I don’t think that drive necessarily comes for me in achieving in races, it comes in just wanting to push myself.

“Ensuring I have fresh challenges is important, and for me it is a lot about enjoyment, so keeping it fresh helps.”

That first step outside his comfort zone comes in the Gulf this weekend in the Abu Dhabi International triathlon.

Where it differs from a traditional Olympic-distance race is in the second portion, with contestants cycling 100km instead of 40km, and doing so in an individual time-trial as opposed to a bunch race.

Alistair explained: “You’re on your own, so it’s undrafting and very much against the clock and against yourself.

“If I’m honest it’s not like a world series event for me, this is about me going there, getting started and trying different things.

“I want to move on to doing longer distances in a few years so this is a stepping stone for that.

“It’s a bit of a novelty, but it’s given me something to focus on during the winter in training.

“Then, hopefully, I’ll be back trying to chase the world series, which is the goal every year.”

An Achilles injury suffered at the start of last year which needed nursing back to full health ahead of London curtailed his involvement in the world series.

In his stead, Jonny, 22, earned wins early on in the season in San Diego and Madrid and then went on to seal the world title in Auckland in October just two months after winning bronze at the Olympics.

“Being world champion hasn’t changed much, but obviously the Olympics did,” said Jonny, whose world title defence is likely to start alongside his brother in San Diego on April 19-20 on the second stop of eight in this year’s series.

“The world title was a strange feeling because it was after the Olympics which was the big focus of the year, so it was hard to continue after that.

“But this year I’d love to become world champion again.

“It’s a very different year though without that one big main focus that is being talked about for such a long time.

“It is a bit more relaxed. The good thing about the world series is that it is a series and there are a lot more races which makes it harder, but it’s also not an all-or-nothing one-day event.”

This year’s world series, which culminates with the grand finale back in Hyde Park in September, is the first year in which both Brownlees are genuine challengers.

In the past, Alistair has led with his younger sibling providing support.

This year, with a title to defend and credentials of his own, Jonny can change the dynamic.

As close as they are, they remain individuals with their own goals, and would relish facing off against each other with the title on the line.

“I’d love to retain it,” said Jonny. “I’ll have to do the same as last year, and as Alistair knows better than anyone, it’s about consistency. Hopefully, I can remain consistent because it’s the main aim this year.”

Alistair countered: “Of course I want the world title back. The odd years seem to be my years (champion in 2009 and 2011), although last year wasn’t bad.

“Thirteen is unlucky for some, but hopefully lucky for me.

“The world series is tough, you need quite a lot of luck on your side, and you have to have some consistent racing.”

The rest of the triathlon world, including Spain’s Javier Gomez who split them in London, will hope they are fighting each other rather than supporting one another, which would make their chances of ending the Brownlee duopoly more likely.

If their demeanour on a recent visit to Aireborough Leisure Centre in Guiseley was anything to go by, they still remain the same grounded young men as always. It was a humbling night for the Brownlee brothers, who learned to swim with Aireborough Swimming Club and still use the facility in the winter. Both boys, and their other brother Edward, were all backstroke champions at the club at one time.

Jonny said: “It’s great to be back. It’s good to see so many people doing sport and the fact that there’s a waiting list here to use the pool is really nice to see.”