How big brother Alistair inspired Jonny Brownlee to be an Olympian

HAVING the perfect role-model so close to home is what gave Jonny Brownlee the belief he could one day become an Olympian and a world champion.

FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS: Alistair Brownlee, above right, proved an inspirational figure for Jonny when it came to him taking up triathlon too.

The Dewsbury-born athlete watched from the stands as his brother Alistair competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Four years later, the siblings stood together on the podium at London 2012 as Alistair claimed triathlon gold and Jonny bronze in what was a memorable games for athletes across Yorkshire.

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The brothers have both been crowned ITU World Triathlon Series champions, Alistair picked up the gold medal in 2009 and 2011 and Jonny won gold in 2012. Younger brother Jonny finished runner-up to his sibling in 2011 and also claimed silver in 2013 and 2016.

Jonny Brownlee, pictured, at the finish line of the 2019 Leeds Triathlon. Picture: Tony Johnson.

“I think inspirations are stronger when they are closer to home,” said Jonny in a question and answer session on Facebook with sports retailer Wiggle.

“Alistair was my big inspiration growing up, I hate saying that! I remember him qualifying to represent Great Britain for the first time and then coming home in his kit.

“I remember him becoming Junior World champion in Lausanne and thought, ‘I can do that as well’.”

Alistair claimed his junior triathlon title in 2006 and Jonny went on to win bronze at the world championships in Vancouver two years later before claiming gold in the European championships the following year.

Jonny and Alistair Brownlee: Displaying their Olympic medals in Millennium Square, Leed. Picture: Simon Hulme

“I was in the crowd when Alistair was racing in Beijing, in 2008 at the Olympics,” continued Jonny.

“Seeing your brother qualify for the Olympics and be very competitive in the Olympics made me believe that I could do that as well.

“I don’t know if I would have believed that if Alistair wasn’t around. I grew up thinking sportsmen were incredible people and I couldn’t be one of them but then seeing your brother doing it makes you believe you can do it as well.”

The brothers spend most of their time training together but have not been able to work alongside each other since the nation was put on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pair had both hoped to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo, which – like most sporting events – have been postponed due to the pandemic sweeping the globe. Alistair has set up a five-metre pool in his garage which pumps out powerful streams of water to help him stay in top condition.

It means the Olympic champion is able to continue with all three triathlon disciplines but admits he came close to retiring two years ago after being hit by constant injury problems.

He said: “My toughest moments all related to injuries, particularly that period between 2017 and 2018 when it was one injury after another.

“I came close to retiring – I was that fed up with it all.”

The Yorkshire athletes had been training in New Mexico prior to the postponement of the 2020 Olympics. With no races to look forward to for the foreseeable future, their training schedules have become much more relaxed.

“I have lost track of the weeks, like a lot of people have,” added Alistair.

“About four weeks ago, Jonny and I were training at altitude in New Mexico. We thought the Olympics were on, so we were still training pretty hard. Then we heard the Olympics had got postponed and we heard that the advice from the Government was to get home as soon as you can.

“The last few weeks of training have been a bit different, it’s been a lot more relaxing.”

He added: “The Olympics was the big goal this year. To get there I still had to qualify and it definitely wasn’t a dead cert.”

For Jonny, he is viewing the postponement of the Olympics as a positive.

He said: “By the time it came around I expected it. I was a bit disappointed at first but then I thought of it as a positive thing for me. My results over the last couple of years haven’t been amazing but I have got to the stage with my body that I can train fully and I have got no injuries.

“Hopefully, next year I can turn up on the starting line fitter and stronger than I would have done this year.”

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