Yorkshire’s Jonny Brownlee makes a belated start to the defence of his triathlon world title in Yokohama tomorrow.
The 23-year-old missed the first two World Series races of the season after struggling with injury during the winter, most recently with an ankle problem.
Brownlee watched his older brother Alistair lay down a marker for his own pursuit of a third world title with a dominant win in San Diego last month, while Spain’s Javier Gomez, who joined the Brownlees on the Olympic podium last year, triumphed in Auckland.
Alistair has often had to contend with winter injuries, including an Achilles problem that put his Olympic bid in doubt, but for Jonny it is a new experience.
The Yorkshireman said: “The ankle itself is absolutely fine now. I’ve not felt anything from any of my injuries now for the best part of five weeks.
“Obviously I haven’t been training as well as I’d like to train but then I’ve thought a bit of a break is probably quite good for me after such a long year last year. We’ll see for this race. I’m not in tip-top condition but I doubt many others are as well.
“I’m going into this completely blind. I’ve never really done this before, I’m used to having six months of completely perfect training before my first race. In a way it’s quite interesting.
“I’m really looking forward to racing. It’s been a while without racing now so I’ve got the bug to start again.”
Olympic champion Alistair - who competed in his first 10,000m on the track in California two weeks ago - is sitting this race out but Gomez is in Japan along with Portugal’s Joao Silva, who currently leads the World Series after two third places and is looking for a third successive win in Yokohama.
Having missed two races and considering the standard of the opposition, Jonny has his work cut out to successfully defend his first world title.
It is almost three years since he last finished off the podium in any race and he must maintain that run over the forthcoming races in Madrid, Kitzbuhel, Hamburg and Stockholm before the Grand Final over the Olympic course in London’s Hyde Park.
Jonny admitted he gets emotional watching footage of last summer’s race, in which he finished third behind his brother and Gomez.
The 23-year-old said: “It will be a very condensed season. My plan for the rest of the year is to do every World Series race that’s coming up.
“The Olympic course is pretty special to go back to. When I watch clips of it now I get quite emotional because it’s so incredible what happened there last year. If we can get a taste of that again, it would be special.”
In the women’s race, Britain’s Jodie Stimpson will hope to achieve her first individual World Series podium spot after an encouraging fifth place in San Diego.