Jonny Brownlee relishing showdown with brother Alistair in Leeds

LEEDS star Jonny Brownlee readily admits an Olympic gold would be the triathlon achievement that would mean most.

Friday, 19th May 2017, 5:38 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:43 pm
Jonny Brownlee.

Big brother Alistair has already twice put paid to those plans – and even with Alistair’s attentions elsewhere the quest to land another cherished prize is threatening to follow suit.

But the younger Brownlee brother is relishing the latest battle with his big bro’ at next month’s ITU World Triathlon Leeds in which he wants a maiden success by beating the best.

Jonathan followed the now familiar path of finishing second to his older brother last year as the UK leg of the ITU Triathlon Series came to Leeds for the first time.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Alistair Brownlee, left, helps his brother Jonny over the line in the triathlon World Series event in Cozumel, Mexico last year.

The result proved a prelude of what followed at the Rio Olympics with Alistair defending his London Olympics gold medal as Jonny’s Games bronze was upgraded to sliver four years on.

Jonny then looked destined to win a second world championship in 2016 until exhaustion set in during the Grand Final in Cozumel in which he had to settle for a second-placed finish behind South Africa’s Henri Schoeman and second to Spain’s new world champion Mario Mola overall.

With Alistair then announcing his intentions to concentrate on specialised long distance events, the path looked clear for the younger Brownlee to shine in 2017 in a bid to reclaim the world title he won in 2012 after his brother’s comeback from injury.

But after battling illness, injury and then pure bad luck in last month’s bike crash in Yokohoma, Jonny might be facing another stumbling block come the fourth race of the series in Leeds.

Jonny Brownlee.

Despite appearing likely to miss the entire 2017 series bar the Grand Final in Rotterdam, Alistair will return to the track for next month’s Leeds event in a bid to defend the title he bagged in 2016.

But rather than be downcast about the obvious threat of his brother’s return, Jonny is relishing the competition ahead of the race on Sunday, June 11 insisting he would rather achieve his dream Leeds win by beating the best of the bests.

“Alistair is competing in it and I always knew he was going to,” Jonny told the YEP.

“He was never going to be able to watch from the sidelines, it’s Leeds isn’t it? It’s the Leeds World Series.

Alistair Brownlee, left, helps his brother Jonny over the line in the triathlon World Series event in Cozumel, Mexico last year.

“He wants to be there and it would hurt him not being there so I always knew he was going to race. In some ways it’s nice because then we go back to racing as a team, on the bike and then on the run. Hopefully this time I will be able to beat him.

“You want the best people to be there, to be able to beat them and it will make it more special if I can beat him on that day.”

Assessing just what victory in Leeds would mean, Jonny pondered: “To win in Leeds would mean a lot.

“Obviously the Olympics is the biggest thing in triathlon and to win that is the biggest thing. It’s the ultimate goal.

Jonny Brownlee.

“But then, for me, it’s to win at home, particularly in the next one.

“It was very, very special last year and we put a lot of emphasis on it because obviously it was a home race and it was the first time it happened last year.

“To get second was very, very good, with Alistair winning, but if it was the other way round it would be even better for me.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career to race in a home Olympics and a home world series. To be able to win one of them would really be very special.”

Jonny enjoyed his most special moment in the sport yet four years ago when he was crowned world champion.

A repeat bid was and still is the aim for 2017 but even without his brother competing in the series as a whole, Jonny admits he is already playing catch up.

“My aim at the start of this year was to become world champion, especially after the Cozumel event when I was so close to a world title,” he said.

“But I came back and wanted it more and I wanted to get over that really.

“This year has started pretty badly for that as for the first two in Abu Dhabi and Gold Coast I was injured, so I couldn’t even start.

“And then I went to Yokohama after training quite hard to get fit again and to crash out when it’s not even your own fault is hard to take. But I have to tell myself that these things happen.

“It makes the Leeds race even more important because basically there is no room for error now and I have to do well.

“It’s your best five so there’s still Leeds, Stockholm, Hamburg, Montreal and Edmonton to go and the Grand Final. So I’d have to do well in all of them to have a chance. But it can change very quickly and hopefully I have had my bad luck now and it means that I can just compete or have a chance to compete firstly in the rest of them. I am just trying not to walk under any ladders!”

Five wins from the last five regular races, though, would likely see Jonny scale repeat world champion heights – a feat that would actually make him even more successful than his brother on a world championship scale.

Alistair is already a dual world champion having won the series in both 2009 and 2011 but a 2017 triumph would see Jonny jump above his older sibling having also finished runner up in 2011, 2013 and 2016, as well as third in 2014.

“I didn’t even know that!” he laughed. “I’ll have it though – it’s superceding him at something!”