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Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee of Yorkshire, England, are the gold and silver medal favorites for the 2012 London Olympics. Inside Triathlon magazine editor-in-chief Courtney Baird caught up with them recently, asking them about Alistair’s recent Achilles injury and what it’s like to be medal favorites for their home Olympics.
Triathlete.com: Hey Alistair. I was sorry to hear about your Achilles tear. How has your rehab been coming along?
Alistair Brownlee: Hi there. Yes, the Achilles tear has been a massive blow for me this winter. I had four weeks in an air cast with no running and swimming in a splint, which was tedious. The boot has come off now and I am starting to ride my bike a bit more, but there’s still a little while to go before I can run outside. I don’t do the sport to spend all my days in leisure centers aqua jogging. I do it because I love being outside training, so it has been very hard for me.
Triathlete.com: What sorts of steps have you been taking to rehab the Achilles as quickly as possible?
AB: Everything I just mentioned, really. Having the air cast boot on was really restrictive and made life difficult for a while but certainly will have sped the recovery up. A tear shows up well on the MRI scan so you basically have to do nothing until it heals. Now it’s just about getting back into training…but very slowly. Endless Pools have lent me a pool with a treadmill in it, so I have started a bit of running on that.
Triathlete.com: How was your winter training going before your Achilles tear? Can you give us an idea of the sorts of workouts you were doing and what kind of shape you were in?
AB: Not sure what a workout is!? But I was in good shape before the tear. I won the Yorkshire Cross Country Championships, which is a highly contested title and had some good races over the fells as well. So I was certainly happy with the way my winter was going. [Editor’s note: a fell is an extremely steep hill in northern England and Scotland. The Brownlees have been fell running since they were young boys.]
Triathlete.com: Do you have any thoughts on when you’ll be back to full training?
AB: Yes, definitely—it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the last month! However, Achilles injuries are very serious, so I want to be back as soon as I can but know that I have to be very careful.
Triathlete.com: I know you don’t think much about pressure, but what are your thoughts about the increased media attention you’ve received as the Games have gotten closer? How will you deal with it as you head into the Games?
AB: A lot of the media attention is fine. It’s something that comes with being a top athlete. We definitely have it easier than a lot of athletes, as well. We can have almost normal lives up here in Yorkshire. It will obviously change in the few weeks leading up to the Games, but we have been anticipating that for a long time. When I reach the start line I will put just as much pressure on myself as I have for every race so far in my career.
Triathlete.com: The WCS London event was really crowded with British fans, and you and Jonny both received a huge applause when they announced your names. Have you thought at all what it will be like to race the Olympics on home soil as the gold medal favorite? Are you looking forward to it?
AB: Yes, the support in London last year was fantastic, and it does give you a massive lift. I have been favorite in races a lot last year and in previous years—it certainly doesn’t have a negative effect on me. By the time of the race you have already prepared mentally and are focused on the task in hand. Having the support on the day is a huge morale boost, and I really do look forward to that atmosphere.
Triathlete.com: And, finally, has Jonny paid his rent yet?
AB: Ha, yes, he’s paid for the last few months…Still waiting for the back payments though!
Check out the next page for our interview with Jonathan Brownlee.
Triathlete.com: Hey Jonathan. How has your winter training been coming along? Can you give us an idea of the sorts of workouts you are doing and what sort of shape you’re in?
Jonathan Brownlee: Hi, yes, I have had a great winter’s training. I’ve been very consistent in training and ran my best ever cross-country season, which culminated in me coming fifth at the British Inter-Counties Championships.
Triathlete.com: What’s it been like training now that Alistair has had to take a bit of a break?
JB: I think immediately, it is nice to have a small break from each other, but it certainly makes things harder the longer he is gone. It’s been great having each other, to help you get out of the door when you are feeling tired. We help to push each other a lot harder in training as well.
Triathlete.com: I saw a photo of a taxi with you and Alistair pictured on it on Twitter a few weeks ago—what are you thoughts on the increased attention both you and your brother are receiving as the Games approach? How have you been handling this newfound attention?
JB: It’s nice to be recognized for all the hard work you put in, but it isn’t why either of us do the sport. We have to give time back to our sponsors who look after us both so well, but we would always prefer to be training than receiving attention from the media. To be honest, we don’t get a great deal of attention back at home in Leeds, anyway. Everyone who lives near us is really supportive and always encourages us when we are out training, but it is very rare we get recognized when we are eating out or shopping.
Triathlete.com: Are you looking forward to racing on home soil, especially since you’re one of the primary medal favorites?
JB: I’m really looking forward to the Olympics now. It feels a lot closer now that we are edging towards the summer and my first race of the year (San Diego). If the reception is anything like the one we got in Hyde Park last year it will be fantastic.
Triathlete.com: How is your degree in history coming along? Will you have it finished before the Games?
JB: I have good and bad days with my degree, but on the whole it is going great. I have nearly finished my 12,000-word dissertation, which is the last piece I have to hand in, so it will easily be wrapped up before the Olympics.
Triathlete.com: Have you let yourself dream of the possibility of winning gold?
JB: Of course, it makes the training all seem much more worthwhile! It’s great to really feel like I have a chance of contesting the gold. I know I have trained well this winter and as long as I have my best race on the day, I know I will be happy with the result. Gold would be an amazing outcome though.
Triathlete.com: And, finally, have you paid Alistair rent yet?
JB: Ha, yes. Didn’t I always!?