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Brownlee Bonanza: World’s Best Speak Before Olympic Triathlon

The brothers from Leeds talk about the race conditions, their training and the uniqueness of the Olympic Games.

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Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, the two brothers from Leeds, England favored to win the Olympic triathlon, spoke about the race conditions, training and how the Olympic Games are different—or not so different—than any other race at the Team GB press conference.

I know you all have been told that you can’t cross the line together, but yesterday demonstrated that they will separate [first and second place] no matter how close it comes down.

Alistair Brownlee: First off if we’re in that position, we’re both going to be very happy because we got first and second. That would be an absolute dream outcome. But yeah, I think it’s the Olympic Games and we’ve both got to race as hard as we can to see who’s the best athlete and who’s going to cross the line first. It’s a shame, I think it’s absolutely in the spirit of Olympic ideals to cross the line together but if it’s not allowed, it’s not allowed.

Does [British success so far during the Olympics] put any pressure on you, do you think you have to go for gold and anything else wouldn’t be acceptable?

Jonathan Brownlee: I think it takes pressure off us because we’ve got so many golds so far. If you got to this position without a gold then maybe everyone would be looking to us and thinking Team GB haven’t got a gold yet, maybe we can do it, but because it has gone so well so far, it has given us confidence. The home support has been incredible, everyone has performed really well, most people have had a good performance, so hopefully we can take confidence from that and also have a good performance.

What did you make of the race yesterday, particularly having to wear wetsuits? And secondly, a lot of girls seemed to slip on the bike, particularly around Buckingham Palace, have you discussed that, are there going to be measures in place [to help make sure you stay upright]?

Alistair Brownlee: Obviously it was a wetsuit swim which is possibly a bit expected, but British weather being British weather—we know that better than anyone coming from Leeds—and wetsuit, non wetsuit, it’s borderline and it doesn’t really matter to us. Either way we’re all great swimmers and it shouldn’t change the outcome too much. Out on the bike, there was a problem, a bit of a dodgy corner, but to me that’s just racing, well lets hope I don’t fall off now. That’s just how it goes, you race on the course you’re given, you get on with it and you don’t complain about it. And so we know that corner is dodgy. We knew before the race yesterday that corner is dodgy and any corner that gets wet in the middle of a city with a white line on it is likely to be slippery so that’s a given.

We all watched the race yesterday morning. It was very exciting. Obviously we wanted Helen [Jenkins, Britain’s 2011 ITU world champion] to do well, but I think it was actually a really good effort by the British girls (Jenkins finished fifth). I thought Lucy [Hall, team domestique] was absolutely fantastic and she did the job brilliantly for a young girl going in to the Olympics and showed really with a team helper can do in that situation. And Helen, considering what she’s been through the last few months, it was amazing how hard she was digging in there and how hard she was holding on. It was really good to watch.

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Last time you went to the Olympics you were a lot younger and people weren’t expecting anything from you, can you tell us a little bit what that experience was like and how it contrasts with this Olympic experience?

Alistair Brownlee: It feels a million times away from this time. Last time I qualified for the Beijing Olympics in the last minute at Madrid only a few months before. Didn’t expect to qualify. Just sneaked in really with a third place there. It was a massive race at the time. Went into the Olympics and when I qualified I thought I was happy to be there really and I thought, “top 20 at the Olympics, that would be good” and I had only come 12th in the European champs a couple weeks before so I thought top 20 would be good. Obviously Beijing was really different because we were trying to prepare for really hot humid conditions so lots of different training camps, hadn’t really done lots of training camps up until that point, so it was a real steep learning curve. Anyway, by the time I got there I had been away for months and months and was convinced I could win the race, even though I had no chance and just went for it. It was really a different experience. I went with not really any expectations on me, only my own expectations. We were staying in the Village. It was Beijing so it was very different and had much more of the Olympic experience around the race. Whereas this time I’ve come in very late and it doesn’t really feel too much like an Olympic games. But I realized very much it was just a triathlon. You stood on the start line and are going to swim, bike and run against the people you race every other week so it’s not that different really. This time it feels very different going in as a favorite, and home Olympics but it’s still a triathlon, you’ve still got to swim, cycle and run. I prepared for it a bit better I think. I’ve taken a few things from last time and put them in to practice. Hopefully that will come out.

There’s talk some of the other teams are going to be working together to try and stop you guys from winning. Is that something you’re conscious of and anything you can do to make up for that?

Jonathan Brownlee: Firstly, it is a race and you kind of expect the others athletes to try ad beat you so I suppose it’s kind of a given. And yeah I think it is, in what you said there, there’s talk the other countries have been talking to each other and I think that says it all. They have to talk to each other to try and find a way to beat us and that’s fantastic. It shows you they’re already worried, they’re already trying to think of other ways and they’re worrying about it. That says everything to me. They can do what they want. We’re going to do what we can. That’s all you can do on the day.

PHOTOS: The Brownlee Brothers

(Alistair Brownlee suffered a partial tear of the Achilles tendon in January.) Alistair, you obviously showed at [June 21 at ITU WTS] Kitzbühel that you’re very fit. Was there ever a time with the Achilles that you were a bit nervous that it was touch and go?

Alistair Brownlee: Most of the year. From about end of January when I first tore my Achilles probably until Kitzbühel, so the end of June, I didn’t know how it would go. [There were] times when I didn’t know if I would run, to times I was running and I didn’t know if I would get fit, to times I didn’t know if it would snap again, so it has been really tough. I think I knew that things started to come around about a week before Kitzbühel, I started to feel a bit better and Kitzbühel was a surprise to be honest. I didn’t think I would race that well, and I’ve had a better six weeks since then as well, so I really don’t think I could ask for anything more.

Can you talk us through how you managed to come out in Kitzbühel and run that well?

Alistair Brownlee: When I first heard that I had a tear in my Achilles I thought, “the Olympics are coming up here, I’m going to have to do something special to get myself back in shape as quick as I can,” so I looked into it a bit. I’ve done a lot of aqua-jogging in the past, which is just running around in deep water, which is the most boring thing in the world. And I was doing this is a public pool with kids jumping on my head and telling me that I shouldn’t be there and I thought, “this is ridiculous, I’m racing the Olympics in 6 months,” so I looked in to other ways of doing it. And [getting] a pool was one of them. I thought, right, I’m going to get a pool and where can I put it. I thought I’m only go to use it a lot, because I hate that type of training, if it’s in my back garden and I can’t get away from it. So first off I had to dig a hole to put the pool in, then I could crack on it. It’s brilliant actually. Really quickly after coming out of the cast that I was in for three weeks I could go straight up to my normal running volume on this treadmill, with a few hiccups to start with. I probably did that for 3, 4, 5 weeks then transitioned slowly to running. So rather than doing 60 minutes in the pool, I’d do 50 minutes in the pool and 10 minutes running.

While Alistair was going through all of that, was that distracting for you to get on with your own training?

Jonathan Brownlee: Truth is he was a nightmare to live with. He’ll try and tell you he wasn’t, but Alistair absolutely loves training. He loves being outside and like he said he absolutely hates inside training, he loves going on his bike in the dales and running, so when he couldn’t do that and he saw me going out training it was horrible for him. So a few times I felt a bit guilty about going out training but all sportsmen have got to be selfish.

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