Olympic Games hopeful Alistair Brownlee in Roundhay Park’s last-chance saloon
In a perfect world, the headline attraction of the fifth staging of the AJ World Triathlon Leeds would be of a city’s chance to bid farewell to two of its sporting greats. But sport is rarely perfect.
Instead, Alistair Brownlee will race through Roundhay Park tomorrow not with nostalgia on his mind but with a desperation for one last good showing in front of his home support that will propel him to a fourth and final Olympics.
For triathlon’s standard-bearer for the last decade has reached last-chance saloon in his quest to qualify for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games, and defend the Olympic titles he won in London and Rio.
Brother Jonny is already there, the younger of the Leeds siblings having secured his spot at a third Games last year.
Jonny, at 31, is also in good form, having won a World Cup event in Arzachena last weekend.
He needed Alistair’s help to claim victory, the elder brother willing him to attack on the bike, and it might be Alistair who needs Jonny this time around.
Alistair did not finish last week’s race, and although it is understood it was not due to the ankle injury that has plagued him recently, it does not bode well for tomorrow’s Olympic distance race through Roundhay Park.
The current rankings mean Britain can only take two male athletes to Tokyo, with the race to accompany the already-selected Jonny far from certain.
Alistair has experience on his side, while his chief rivals for the spot, Alex Yee – 10 years his junior – may be significantly less versed in racing triathlons at the highest level, but has been quicker than Alistair this year and has been emerging ever since his first visit to a World Series event in Leeds two years ago.
So if all eyes will be on Alistair’s health and performance tomorrow, there is plenty more to catch the gaze across two days of competition.
The usual amateur triathlons take place on both mornings, plus age-group events, but what makes an already unique event that combines men, women, professional and recreational athletes, is the fact that Leeds will play host to a World Triathlon Para Series race today, the first of its kind in Britain.
The Para-Series race, like the men’s and women’s elite races on Sunday, forms part of the qualification window for Tokyo.
The elite paratriathlon action starts at 2pm with different classifications starting throughout the afternoon. All paratriathletes will swim 750m in Waterloo Lake, before cycling and running through the park for a 20km bike leg and 5km run leg.
On both days, 4,000 ticketed spectators will be present in Roundhay Park.
“We love coming to Leeds,” Andy Salmon, the chief executive of British Triathlon, told The Yorkshire Post.
“We’ve got a special relationship with Leeds City Council and the people of Leeds. Leeds involvement with triathlon isn’t just about this event; we’ve got two universities involved in triathlon, we’ve got the legacy of the Brownlee brothers, an array of talented athletes.
“It’s just a fantastic hotbed of triathlon, and what we want to do on the back of these events is see more people swimming, biking and running, no matter what their ability and what their background.
“We’re thrilled to be getting 4,000 spectators in each day and also delighted to get the para-series race in on Saturday as well. We’ve worked incredibly hard to get that into the weekend over the last three years.”
This is the last year of the contract between Leeds City Council, British Triathlon and external partners to stage the UK leg of the World Championship in Leeds, but The Yorkshire Post understands there is a determination on all sides to bring it back here next year. An announcement is expected after this weekend’s event.
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