Leeds proves perfect host for drama of AJ Bell 2022 World Championship Triathlon Series weekend

From the packed grandstands to the smiling faces lining the route, the dramatic twist in the elite men’s race to the exhausted amateurs who stumbled over the finish line - Leeds played host to yet another uplifting world triathlon festival this weekend.

By Nick Westby
Sunday, 12th June 2022, 4:55 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2022, 10:42 am

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Jonny Brownlee breaks elbow in nasty crash at World Triathlon Championship Serie...

The AJ Bell 2022 World Championship Triathlon Series to give the event its official name, once again combined the endeavours of Olympians with the efforts of recreational runners.

It is quite a unique event in sport and Leeds has become synonymous with it, athletes of all ages competing in open races in the morning before collecting their kit and watching the world’s best contest the same course in the afternoon – albeit a few minutes quicker.

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AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds - Women battle for position in Saturday's race. ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

This was the sixth time Leeds has staged a World Championship Series weekend, a sequence that began in 2016 and was punctuated only by its cancellation due to the Covid pandemic in 2020.

The all-conquering Brownlee brothers are the reason it came here in the first place, their exploits on the global stage making Leeds a magnet for the best triathletes in this country and a must-go destination for the sport’s governing body to bring a leg of its global event.

While Alistair, a former winner of the race, has retired from the shorter distances now to focus on other pursuits, his brother Jonny was still stealing the headlines this weekend.

But not in the glory of being the first across the line in front of the bright blue grandstands in Roundhay Park, as he would have liked.

Nerves on the pontoon at the start of the elite races (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

This time, the younger Brownlee was on the ground in pain, an ugly crash on the bike leg of the race ending his chances.

There were victories in the elite races for France’s Cassandre Beaugrand and New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde, while the German relay team pipped home team Great Britain into second place in the mixed relay on Sunday.

But this weekend is about so much more than the world’s best. It is about the every day triathletes who flock to the city from far and wide to stand on an even footing as their heroes for just a few seconds.

That flutter of nerves they feel as they tiptoe to the edge of the pontoon before diving into the freezing depths of Waterloo Lake is the same energy the pros experience.

Jonny Brownlee sustained a broken elbow in the race, but here he is in transition to the bike (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

This event leaves Leeds next year, but only temporarily. Such has been the sustained success, British Triathlon want to spread the love, share the wealth and grow the sport in other areas of the country.

Sunderland will host next year’s event, but the World Championship Series returns to Leeds in 2024, the West Yorkshire city the undoubted nation’s capital of triathlon.

Fans enjoy the AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)