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Page last updated at 08:27 GMT, Saturday, 5 February 2011
No place like home for triathlete Brownlee


Brownlee gears up for toughest year

By Ollie Williams

This is the most important year of Alistair Brownlee's life.

The 22-year-old represents Britain's best chance of a triathlon gold medal at the London Olympics, but to do that he must come through 2011 in form and injury-free.

Both are easier said than done. Triathlon is an unpredictable sport - any one of 20 athletes could reasonably win one of the world's top races on a given day.

Brownlee's team-mate, Stuart Hayes, proved that last year when he won one of triathlon's seven World Championship series races - the toughest in the sport - in Kitzbuhel. It was Hayes' first win at that level in 11 years of trying.

But Brownlee can more than match that having won seven races of the same calibre in the past two years, enough to earn him the overall world title in 2009.

He has the talent and drive to win. Preventing injury will be the hardest part.

"Injuries are an absolute nightmare," he says. "Especially when you don't know what the injury is or how long it will take to recover."

Brownlee has already dealt with a major injury once, missing the opening half of the 2010 season with a stress fracture in his leg.

Then, competing at London's Hyde Park triathlon later that summer, he collapsed at the end of the race - an incident he still cannot fully explain.

Alistair Brownlee by Kevin Bishop
Alistair Brownlee represents Britain's best chance of a triathlon gold medal at the 2012 Olympics

All of which makes Olympic success far from guaranteed, but this is the year in which the proud Yorkshireman can begin to make his mark on the Games.

Qualification for the Olympic triathlon relies on a system of points, examples being 1,000 for winning a World Championship series grand final, 800 for winning one of the other six series events leading up to it, and 500 for winning a Triathlon World Cup race.

Brownlee knows exactly what he has to do to cement his place on the Hyde Park start line come 2012.

"There are two big races to qualify for the Olympics - the World Championship series race in London and the grand final in Beijing," he explains.

"A top three in either of those races pretty much guarantees you an Olympic spot, as long as you back it up with a good result elsewhere as well."

Getting those results cannot be left to chance. Brownlee and his younger brother, Jonny - also an elite triathlete - train almost non-stop, throughout the year.

Sun, sea and sibling rivalry: Alistair Brownlee in Lanzarote

Even the ugly British weather of this winter proved no barrier. While Brownlee had no qualms about heading out in the snow on his mountain bike, he and several team-mates also decamped to the Canary Islands for warm-weather training.

Back in Britain and with the season looming, the Yorkshire Dales provide the ideal, rugged environment in which to prepare.

The brothers swim, cycle and run for hours at a time. Barely a day goes by without some form of training.

"We've probably averaged 30 hours of training per week over 50 weeks of the year, for the last five or six years," says Brownlee.

"When you add it up at the end of the week... it's quite a lot."

Standing in the snow on a Leeds running track, in the heart of Yorkshire, Jonny adds: "Right now the Olympics feels a long, long way away.

"It's so cold that I couldn't picture getting my tri-suit on and getting into some water. If I tried that now, I'd probably hit the ice.

"Until the season proper starts we've got a few more months of training, too. It's all a long way away - but we've got to train hard."

The younger Brownlee has his own ambitions for the next 18 months. Naturally, he wants to race against his brother in Hyde Park at the Olympic Games. But he would also like to beat him.

We've probably averaged 30 hours of training per week over 50 weeks of the year, for the last five or six years
Alistair Brownlee

When Alistair collapsed at last year's Hyde Park race, it was Jonny who breezed through to claim second place at his brother's expense.

However, the younger Brownlee - who holds the under-23 triathlon world title - refuses to count that as "beating" his elder sibling. He wants to do it properly.

"Qualifying is a massive step," says Jonny. "I'm still quite young but I've got to start concentrating on that. I'd be so, so proud to be there on that start line.

"Alistair keeps on improving and trains hard. He still beats me in our Saturday morning run session. So it's a tall ask, but I've got to believe I can beat him.

"But in the Olympics there'll be 64 other people to race against - I can't concentrate on him."

Alistair has now removed the protective cast he wore over the New Year to cushion a minor heel problem. He will soon be ready to test his body against the world's finest once more.

On home soil in August, for the first time, the Hyde Park triathlon will be run over the full Olympic course. It is a chance for the public, and the Brownlees, to gain a glimpse of the Games a year ahead of time.

If he holds his results and his body together, Alistair Brownlee will be back there in 2012. With a little more effort and a slice of luck, he will become Britain's first triathlon medallist at an Olympics.

Brownlee, however, will want the gold.

We will be following the progress of a selection of athletes and we would like to hear from you.

What would you like to ask about Alistair's build-up to the Olympics? What's training like as a triathlete? What are his hopes? Send us your questions for Alistair using the form below.

A selection of your comments may be published, displaying your name and location unless you state otherwise in the box below.

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see also
Triathlon brothers in snowball fight
11 Jan 11 |  Triathlon
Brownlee to focus on Olympic bid
16 Nov 10 |  Triathlon
Alistair Brownlee's nightmare season
15 Sep 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Tour of Alistair Brownlee's house
10 Sep 10 |  World Olympic Dreams
Physio gets Brownlee back on track
08 Apr 11 |  World Olympic Dreams
Day in the life of Alistair Brownlee
29 Jul 10 |  World Olympic Dreams

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