Jonny Brownlee insists rumours of the demise of he and his brother, Alistair, are greatly exaggerated.
The all-conquering Leeds brothers, who turned the world of triathlon on its head during a dominant period, are facing negative headlines about their standing at the top of the sport for the first time.
Ever-present on the podium at World Series events across the globe over the past few years, the Brownlees gave the chasing pack cause for optimism in Yokohama earlier this month when Alistair finished fourth and Jonny came home fifth.
And the merest hint of infalliability has been seized upon.
“I was kind of shocked by it all – it’s the first time I’ve had negative press,” laughs Jonny, the younger of the two brothers, who is intent on redressing the balance in the fourth round of the series in London’s Hyde Park today.
“I don’t really read that type of thing but it spurs me on if I do read it.
“I was on the podium eight times in a row and then I come fifth one time and everyone thinks it’s over.”
Jonny does himself a disservice. His sequence of podium finishes in individual World Series events actually stood at 19, dating back to the summer of 2010.
There are also mitigating circumstances as to why the pair struggled in Japan.
Alistair was making his first appearance of the season after an injury-plagued year.
Such has been his inability to build up a base of endurance over the winter – so key in a triathlete’s genetics – the Olympic champion has taken the decision to abort his plans to run the 10,000 metres on the track at the Commonwealth Games this summer in favour of concentrating solely on the triathlon.
Jonny has been fully fit, but that too has worked against him, as he has barely had any rest since beginning training in November.
Furthermore, the growth of the sport is taking it to new markets across the globe and increasing the demands on the younger Brownlee.
Primarily a sport contested in Europe with only a handful of events on other continents, this year’s eight-race series to decide the world champion has only three stops in its heartland.
The first three races were in Auckland, Cape Town and Yokohama in the space of seven weeks – and Jonny raced them all, clocking up 47,000 air miles in the process.
“It’s tired me out a lot more than I expected,” says the 24-year-old, who is cramming in races at the start of the year because he is prioritising the Commonwealth Games in the summer.
“I did Auckland and back, Cape Town and back and then Yokohama and back, and it makes recovery really tough.
“By the time you get back from one race it’s taken you four or five days to get over the jet lag. Then you hit training again but before you can get into it you’re on another long-haul flight again.
“Yokohama was the worst I’ve felt in a race. We flew out Wednesday, got there Thursday and thought we could just race Saturday. I’ve done that before, just turned up and raced and felt amazing, but this time I felt absolutely awful. Alistair felt exactly the same.
“I’d not appreciated until this season how much travelling takes out of you. People don’t understand how much half a per cent can make a difference in a race, and that half a per cent could have come from not sleeping well enough on the plane, or having a soar throat on the day of the race.
“It all counts and can have a real affect. But if you want to be world champion you’ve got to race at least six events, including the Grand Final (Edmonton).
“Also, maybe I have trained too much. Because we had a milder winter, and I’ve had no injuries touch wood, I was able to train every day. So I’ve learned more than ever this year about a number of things. In the long run it’s probably good for me. It’s taught me a lot about when to travel out to races, when and how to recover, how much am I going to do?
“In Yokohama, a lot of things went wrong. London will be completely different, especially in front of a home crowd.”
Today’s race is over the shorter sprint distance, a discipline in which Jonny was the last world champion back in 2011.
He is currently second in the series standings behind Spain’s defending champion Javier Gomez, the man who split the Yorkshire brothers in the Olympics in 2012. The Spaniard has won all three races so far.