In Olympic history, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are the only men to three-peat in the same individual event in swimming, cycling or running. Come July 27 in Tokyo, Brit Alistair Brownlee aims to become the first athlete to win the triathlon — swimming, cycling and running — three straight times.
Brownlee, 31, at last decided whether to pursue another Olympics. It’s a yes this summer.
“A year ago I wouldn’t be doing this, because I knew I couldn’t cope with another bad injury,” Brownlee said, according to the BBC, conjuring setbacks in this Olympic cycle including hip surgery and a calf issue. “But in the past year I haven’t been injured. I’ve really enjoyed training and I’ve really enjoyed competing, and preparing to compete.
“And so the decision crept up on me a bit: I want to go to another Olympics, and I want to see what I might be able to do.”
Brownlee, who moved up to the Ironman last year, said in 2018 that he was “50-50” on a Tokyo Olympic run. But after finishing 21st at the Ironman Kona World Championships on Oct. 12, he moved the meter to “definitely swinging towards” moving back down to the Olympic distance.
Brownlee said he would ultimately decide after one more Ironman in Australia on Dec. 1, which he won by 10 minutes in 7 hours, 45 minutes, 20 seconds.
“The 12-year-old me dreamed of going to one Olympics,” Brownlee said, according to the BBC. “So to pass up the chance of just seeing where it leads me this year would be a bit mad.”
Other Olympic triathletes transitioned to the Ironman and never went back, such as 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno of Germany and two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True.
One other triathlete won an Olympic title after completing the Kona Ironman — Austrian Kate Allen, who was seventh in Kona in 2002, then took gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
Brownlee has completed one Olympic-distance triathlon on the top-level ITU World Series since June 2017, finishing 44th at an event in Great Britain last June.
Last season, Frenchman Vincent Luis ended Spain’s six-year streak of world championships, relegating Mario Mola and Javier Gomez to second and third in the season-long standings.
“The perfect scenario is that I’m in a position where I’m stood on the start line, and I think I can win the race,” Brownlee said, according to the BBC. “But if I’m instead thinking I can scrape a third here, or I’m thinking, I could help another British athlete win a medal here — I would be happy with that.”
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