Jonny Brownlee knows a world beater when he sees one and thinks fellow Team GB triathlon star Alex Yee could one day ‘dominate this sport’… after the 23-year-old won a brave silver in Tokyo, who wouldn’t agree ?
Jonny Brownlee knows a bit about proximity to greatness and he knows a world beater when he sees one. He thinks he’s seen one in Alex Yee and who wouldn’t agree?
If Britain’s dominance of the Olympic triathlon stage resumes, it will surely come from the 23-year-old with the collection of stuffed monkeys who threw dung around the cages of established athletes on Monday.
In his first Games, he won a brilliant silver that may have been a gold, but for the tireless run of a solid Norwegian, Kristian Blummenfelt.
Jonny Brownlee backed fellow Team GB star Alex Yee (above) to dominate triathlon in future
Yee (above) won the silver medal in the men’s individual triathlon, behind Kristian Blummenfelt
By the calculation of Blummenfelt, the world number 2, he knew he had won the race “when I was on the pontoon” for the swim.
But a more sensible assessment would have noted that Yee pushed him to the brink and might even have climbed a step higher on the podium if the 10k run had formed.
They were level with just 2km to go and Yee, the younger man at four, is an international-caliber runner, so it may have come as a surprise that he fell 11 seconds behind.
When it was all done, Blummenfelt left in a wheelchair and Yee’s ears burned with the suggestion that he is the heir to the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny.
And the younger Brownlee brother praised his British team-mate as ‘a great all-round triathlete’
It was none other than Jonny leading the chorus. After finishing fifth in his latest attempt at gold, he said, “Alex is incredible. He’s a great runner, he has a great head and knows how to race.
“Undeterred by the big event, he has now turned into a great all-round triathlete. He deserves that medal.
“Anyone who has seen the sport in the past two years knows that was no shock. They will have seen it coming.
“Alex now has the ability to dominate this sport. People will have to keep thinking about how to beat him because if they’re not careful, he’s going to win a lot of races.”
Jonny (left) and older brother Alistair (right) won silver and gold respectively at the Rio Games
Yee was delighted with the result, albeit a joy tempered by the feeling that he had not executed his run correctly.
He said, ‘It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, it doesn’t feel quite real that it’s me. I still feel like an ordinary guy from South East London and I hope I can be an inspiration to many people that this is possible and that I am nothing special.”
He added: “I think I probably timed it (the run) a bit wrong, making it a little late to close the gap to Kristian. Once I was half way through I was pretty cooked, I started to feel the heat and stuff.
“I had a really good strategy and felt comfortable up until that point, but Kristian was the better man of the day.
“I want to force my own circumstances and if that meant I wasn’t good enough that day, that’s what it is. I wouldn’t change anything and I feel like I’m getting a bit more respect in that sense too.’
They are some of the footsteps Yee will now follow, with two-time Olympic medalist Jonny Brownlee, 31, soon to follow his double champion brother Alistair who is retiring from triathlon.
Yee said, “Jonny was still fifth in this race – that’s pretty incredible. It’s hard to say what those guys will do, but legends never die and they will always have created that legacy and raised our sport because it wasn’t what it was before they started and now it has the platform. I hope I can do a bit of the same.’
Not many doubt it.