TW Interviews: Jonny Brownlee

Is gold thicker than blood? We talk sibling rivalry and senior success with the younger Brownlee as both brothers prepare for their biggest race yet, London 2012.



jonny brownlee

Jonny Brownlee has followed rapidly in older brother Alistair's footsteps to take silver in the ITU World Championship series in only his first full senior season. The adage that younger siblings have all the fun certainly seems true - whilst Alistair shoulders the weight of expectations for Olympic and World Championship gold, Jonny has enjoyed competing and climbing the rankings with a fraction of the media pressure.

However, with his appetite for success, his gregarious disposition and his charming Yorkshire accent, we're sure Jonny won't stay under the media radar much longer - and nor will he let brother take Olympic gold without a fight, we discovered.

London 2012 will be your first Olympics. Does it feel real yet and what are you most looking forward to?

It's feeling more real because I met the selection criteria after a good season last year. It'll be my first Olympics and what I'm most looking forward to is the race itself. Just being able to race in front of a home crowd and perform on the day is the most important thing.

Do you remember watching Alistair at the Beijing Olympics? What was that like for you?

I remember watching Alistair, because I was in there at the stadium on an initiative called Britain 2012 Olympic Ambition [young athletes could go to Beijing to get first hand experience of what it's like at an Olympic Games]. I loved the Olympic Ambition experience but I hated watching the triathlon race, because I didn't want to be just sat there watching it, I desperately wanted to be out there racing. I remember watching Alistair at the front of the pack and thinking, "This is weird, Alistair is going to win an Olympic medal here, this shouldn't be happening. What happens when he comes home and he's an Olympic medallist? Will he be the same person?" But then he didn't win an Olympic medal after all [Alistair finished 12th after leading the pack for the first 7K of the run]. I realised afterwards that it wouldn't have been any different if he had won, he'll always be the same person.

You worked as a team to help Alistair take gold in the European Championships last year and you've worked together on several races this season. When it comes to the Olympics, will it be each man for his own when there's a gold medal up for grabs?

We'll still work together a little bit, but the way we work together is that I'd never do anything to sacrifice my race too much. If he got a puncture, I'd never go back, pick him up and drag him forwards, because that's going to tire my legs out as well - I'd wait for him and not sacrifice my race. The way we race suits each other; Alistair likes a fast swim and a fast bike and so do I. We never sacrifice our own race but we do work together and we probably will again at the Olympics. Its one of our main strengths and the fact that we can help each other out is amazing.

But you'll still be aiming for gold?

Definitely. When it comes down to it I want to win gold. Going for gold at a home Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

There are so many expectations on Alistair to take Olympic gold. Does that take the pressure off you or make you want to prove yourself more?

It takes a lot of pressure off me because people are focusing on Alistair, understandably as he's World Champion. He's very good at taking pressure, in fact he thrives on it. I still want to win gold for myself and I like a bit of pressure too. People put pressure on you for a reason and you've got to take it as a compliment and not be too scared. I've learnt that from Alistair and at the end of the day, you can only try your best.

Which were the first Olympic Games you remember watching? Did any particular athlete inspire you?

I remember watching Linford Christie getting disqualified in 1996. I also remember Cathy Freeman winning the 400m at Sydney and I remember staying up really late to watch the women's and men's triathlon. People in sport always seemed so incredible and different to everyone else, I never really thought I could be like them.

Back to your performance last season, where you finished second in your first ITU World Championship series. How did you feel about that?

I was really really pleased with my season. I was most proud of my race consistency. It was my first full year competing only at senior level and I finished on the podium in every race. I also qualified for the Olympics, which was my main aim, so it couldn't have gone any better.

It's a big transition to go from U23 to senior racing, though you made it look easy. What were the key lessons you learnt from this season?

The biggest thing I learnt was the importance of peaking at the right time. To qualify for London 2012, the Hyde Park race was key. I aimed to peak for that and gave it everything, so now I've learnt how to do that. I know I'll need a training block before London so I can peak there next year. When I went to race in Beijing in September I suddenly felt how long the season had been, so now I know how hard it is to have a good season for the whole duration. My first race last season took place in Sydney and even though I wasn't super fit and I was quite aware of that, I realised I could still race well on the day.

How much training are you doing at the moment?

We finished our season a week after racing, then we had two weeks off. We're back into normal training now - apart from today - and we'll be back home putting in 35 hours a week, split across all sports. I'll probably run eight times a week, bike seven times a week and swim five times a week, then there are two gym sessions. That's quite a lot of training but I love it, so it's all easy.

When will we see you racing next?

I'll race cross-country this year. I'll probably race the Yorkshire Cross Country Championships and maybe the inter-counties. In terms of triathlons, my first race will probably be San Diego in April or maybe a French grand prix a few weeks before that.

What is the best piece of advice you'd give to someone taking on their first triathlon next year?

Just do it. There are all sorts of races you can do, from super sprints to Ironman. My main advice is that it's not super hard. Choose the right distance for you and you'll be able to do it. It's not like running a marathon where you're pounding on your legs for hours and its high impact. Triathlon is really fun; find a friend to train with and just enjoy taking on a new challenge.      

Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee were speaking at the launch of the Gatorade G Series Pro range, a new series of sports performance products that fuel athletes before, during and after workout, practice or competition. Available to buy in stores from November 20th, follow @GatoradeUK for more information.


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