Brownlees’ Rio Olympics quotes

The brothers Brownlee talk Rio, racing Ironman and sibling emotions

Image: Dave Pearce

Having obliterated the field at the Rio Olympic Games triathlon, the Brownlee brothers pulled off another fine performance in the press conference at the Forte Copacabana as well. Here Yorkshire’s finest open up on the Rio experience, sibling support and the lure of racing Ironman…

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ON ENJOYING IT

ALI: The odds are that it won’t happen again. Four years is a long time until the Tokyo Olympics and we shouldn’t be thinking about it too much. We should be enjoying what we’ve managed to pull off today and be appreciative that the last three months of hard training paid off. When we crossed the line we looked at each other and said ‘We’ve done it’.

ON MAKING THE BREAK

ALI: Our plan was to get out of the swim as fast as we could and push it hard on the bike quickly. And we got a gap between us and the chasers, so it worked. We pushed on to drop Vincent Luis as we knew he was starting to struggle. I’ve spent my life racing so I know what to look for when an athlete is starting to struggle.

ON MILKING COWS

JONNY: Our mum and dad are here but our brother Ed didn’t bother coming and stayed at home. He’s training to be a vet so he’s probably milking cows right now, something far more interesting than watching us! We saw our parents in the stand holding a Great Britain and a Yorkshire flag. 

ON RETAINING THE OLYMPIC TITLE

ALI: It’s very special but the important thing is I showed up today after training as hard as I could and executed it on the day. The record isn’t the big thing for me. It’s turning up on this day and winning the race. Maybe the enormity of it will sink in over the next couple of weeks.

ON KILLING IT IN TRAINING

ALI: I had ankle surgery in August 2015 and didn’t run pain-free until the new year. But once I started training, which is something that I love, Jonny helped push me on. We were doing sessions that were harder than races a few times a week and absolutely killing ourselves, I was waking up unable to walk. And it’s been like that for the past six months.

ON ALISTAIR RACING IRONMAN

ALI: Tokyo is a possibility that I need to think about. Triathlon is what I love doing and I want to do Ironman one day. Whether that’s before Tokyo in the next four years I don’t know. Or I do Ironman and then have a crack at Tokyo. But triathlon for me has always been about the Olympics, starting from watching Sydney in 2000.

ON THE RIO SETTING

ALI: The setting is fantastic and the sport of triathlon really showcases locations. We really noticed the British support out on the course; the fans outnumbered every other nation on the course.

JONNY: The water quality was absolutely fine. Our friends have all swam in it and are fine. The only difference we made this time was not swimming in it the day before the race. The bike course made for an interesting and proper triathlon, instead of just a run race. Although being from Yorkshire, we wanted even more hills!

ON JONNY’S FUTURE

JONNY: I thought Alistair was waiting for me at one point, and I thought I could do him at the end! But if any athlete is going to beat me then I’m happy it’s Alistair. I’m 26 now and still have hopefully a few years in me to get a gold medal. Maybe I’ll start to feel jealous of Alistair if I’m still chasing that medal at the end of my career.

ON SIBLING EMOTIONS

JONNY: Rio was the most emotional moment that I’ve had racing. I’m not usually an emotional racer but maybe after the tough year we’ve had where we’ve gone through a lot more together, it made it more special than ever before me. We’ve been written off so getting gold and silver couldn’t have gone any better.

ON QUITTING TRI

JONNY: If I didn’t have Alistair then I don’t think I would be sat here. There was a time when I was about 14 when I wasn’t sure of doing the sport any longer, but Alistair made it really easy to come back to. He’s a great training partner and would get me out of bed in the morning. We’d cycle to school together and he’d show me great run routes. It’s all about trust and knowing someone has your best interests at heart.

ON HENRI SCHOEMAN’S BRONZE

ALI: Today was about being an all-round triathlete. We said to Henri at the starting line that we’re going to swim hard and take it on. Triathlon at the Olympics is all about doing it on the day, and Henri did that. 

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ON UK SPORT

ALI: We’re a sport-mad nation and the funding and input from UK Sport is phenomenal. There are cycling and running routes all around Britain, and the ITU races in Leeds and London have the biggest crowds on the circuit. We’ve got the attitude that the Olympics is everything, and the access to the doctors, physios, coaches and more means that I’ve got all I need. And Yorkshire has a massive sporting heritage, which is crucial. And long may that continue.