Shifting focus: Ironman challenge next on agenda for Leeds’ Alistair Brownlee

WINNER: Alistair Brownlee wins  the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Leeds  in Millenium Square.  Picture Tony Johnson
WINNER: Alistair Brownlee wins the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Leeds in Millenium Square. Picture Tony Johnson
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ALISTAIR BROWNLEE will put plans for a third Olympic triathlon gold medal on hold in order to pursue his lifelong dream of competing in the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii.

Brownlee, who pipped brother Jonny to the title in Rio this summer, is set to take a step back from the Olympic format over the next two years and concentrate on establishing himself in endurance level events.

Leeds' Alistair Brownlee with his gold medal for the men's Triathlon in Brazil. Picture: PA.

Leeds' Alistair Brownlee with his gold medal for the men's Triathlon in Brazil. Picture: PA.

And while the 28-year-old from Leeds has not ruled out the possibility of returning for Tokyo 2020, he insists his long-term target remains to mount a challenge in his sport’s most iconic event.

“For the next two years I’m going to pursue things away from Olympic triathlon, because it’s important I have a different focus,” said Brownlee.

“I’ve been to three Olympics and I can’t say I won’t definitely be at a fourth, but I’d like to try something different over longer distances, and run a marathon some time.

“All triathletes have the ambition to do the almost mystical Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. It’s very unlikely that I could do it in the next two years, but I could build up my endurance then maybe go back to it after Tokyo as a 32-year-old.”

An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycle and a full marathon - almost four times further than the distance covered by Brownlee in each of his Olympic triumphs.

Brownlee, who is one of 16 athletes on the shortlist for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, is currently enjoying his first extended period away from his sport in 15 years - and has been mountain-biking with friends.

He admits he is still struggling slightly to come to terms with his new-found fame after footage of him helping stricken brother Jonny over the finish line at the World Series event in Mexico went viral online - and saw his odds for the BBC award tumble.

Brownlee added: “Both Jonny and I were really quite uncomfortable with the attention that came out of that day, especially while Jonny was in intensive care and the jury were deliberating on whether we should be disqualified.

“The scale of the after-effect was incredible and to be honest completely baffling. We were both embarrassed at first and wanted to turn down all the attention, but we realised it gave us a platform to talk about triathlon and encourage people to get active.

“The whole Mexico thing brought us to the attention of a lot of people who probably didn’t know what triathlon was. So I think now that we can look back on it with the benefit of hindsight, it was probably a good thing - although I’d still have preferred Jonny to have won the race.”

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