Injury will not put off Brownlee in pursuit of double

Alistair Brownlee
Alistair Brownlee
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Alistair Brownlee says he will persevere with his 10k experiment going into the Commonwealth Games but that regaining his triathlon world title is his primary aim.

The Olympic triathlon champion said in the wake of his London 2012 triumph that being in a position to race the 10,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games was his next challenge.

But in a 2013 season blighted by a persistent ankle injury, he managed to race only one 10k on the track.

He was still fit enough at times to win three races in the triathlon world series but was struggling for full fitness when the world championship came down to the crunch in London.

The 25-year-old from Leeds described his post-Olympic campaign as “stressful” and is one he is ready to put behind him.

Yet for all the obstacles he has faced, he still remains steadfast in his desire to compete in the 10,000m in Glasgow next summer, as well as both the team and individual triathlons.

“I’m just going to see how it goes but I would still absolutely love to do it,” Brownlee told the Yorkshire Post.

“But it all depends on the practicality of getting my ankle right.

“If I can give it a shot I will do.

“I’ve heard there’s a pacemaker trial sometime in May that I can go for that hopefully I can get involved with.

“I would love to do that just to see how fast I could run generally.

“But with the World Series already up and running by then, it might be difficult to factor in because winning back the world triathlon title is a primary aim next season. It’s been a while since I’ve won that.”

A growing trend in sport is for people at the top of their game to pull out of major events if they do not feel they can win them.

Jessica Ennis-Hill withdrew from this summer’s world championships in Moscow because she was not fit enough to compete for the title.

And Andy Murray has said he will not go to the Australian Open next month if he does not feel capable of winning it, just months after back surgery.

Admirable as those stances are, Brownlee takes the alternative view.

“My mentality has always been to finish a race, regardless of whether I’m competitive,” said the elder sibling, who is being pushed every year by his younger brother Jonny. “I’d still run the 10,000 metres at the Commonwealth Games even if I didn’t think I’d be competitive.”

The schedule for the Commonwealths has been kind to Brownlee, with the individual and team triathlon two days apart at the start of the Games, and the 10,000m not taking place until six days later, on Friday, August 1.

The problem he faces is juggling the preparation time, with opportunities to race on the track being limited.

This year was when he hoped to build towards a serious campaign in 2014, but he raced only once in California, and although he shaved 35 seconds off the time he set at the Olympics – when the notion of concentrating on the 10k was first raised – it was still not enough experience.

His ankle trouble also flared up on the track during that race.

“I definitely tweaked something in Stanford but that could have happened in any track or road session,” said Brownlee.

“The thing with the 10k is that it is so tough on your body.

“To be someone who normally runs competitive times on the track I’ve not done anywhere near as many as I would need.”

Brownlee reports that the ankle is close to full health, with the fact he doesn’t race again until the one-off Abu Dhabi triathlon in March – when he goes head to head with his brother – offering time to get it right for the demands of next year.

But there is no doubting how much of an impact the injury has had on a young man who, prior to 2013, knew nothing but success and progression.

“It’s been a tough year, that’s the only way to reflect on it,” he said.

“Nothing came easily for me, not that I ever thought it was going to after the year I’d had.

“I had it in my head that I wanted to relax and enjoy the training and the racing away from the pressure of the year before. But I wasn’t even able to do that.

“The only time I enjoyed it was in March at Abu Dhabi, but almost for the rest of the year it was stressful.

“When you look at the year results-wise, I still managed to win three world series races, so it’s not all that bad. But nothing ever came easy and it was very stressful between races.

“I never seemed to get settled with my ankle. When one area cleared up, I was struck down with something else. It has not just been one tendon, it’s been three.

“The worse bit was the run into the grand final in London. The ankle was playing up and it prevented me enjoying the run in.

“There was a lot of interest in that race and a lot of expectation on my shoulders because of the past. But I knew I wasn’t ready.

“I’ve not had an injury like that in the middle of the year before. So it’s been a big challenge mentally.”

Alistair will join his younger brother Jonny on stage next Sunday night when the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards show comes to his home city and the First Direct Arena.

The two are presenting the award for young sports personality, for which 14-year-old weightlifter Rebekah Tiler of Denholme is a contender.

The senior Brownlee said: “We were on the selection committee for it this year which was great to be a part of. We didn’t realise how difficult it would be trying to compare achievements across sports.”