INTERVIEW: Jonathan Brownlee - Aiming for Gold at Rio 2016

Matt Jones - Editor 19:27 04/03/2015
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Determined: Great Britain's Jonathan Brownlee believes he can win Gold at Rio 2016.

Despite playing second fiddle to his older brother at the Olympic Games on home soil at London 2012, Jonathan Brownlee admits he is gunning for gold at Rio 2016.

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The younger Brownlee, 24, claimed a bronze medal on home soil two-and-a-half years ago, finishing 31 seconds behind elder sibling Alistair, 26.

Alistair claimed gold after finishing 11 seconds ahead of Spaniard Javier Gomez in one of a montage of memorable Olympic moments for Great Britain athletes.

Podium finishes for both brothers helped Team GB finish third in the overall medal table in 2012, thanks to a total of 29 golds.

They also claimed 17 silver and 19 bronze medals for a total haul of 65 – their second best medal haul of all time and best performance in more than 100 years.

London 2012 is only bettered for gold and overall medals by the first time the Olympics were held in the capital 106 years ago in 1908 – where Britain won 56 golds and 146 medals in total.

That was also the only year Britain had more athletes (676) competing than in 2012 (541).

While the younger Brownlee certainly doesn’t live in the shadow of his older brother, he is eyeing his gold medal at next year’s Olympic Games in Brazil – the journey for which begins at the IPIC World Triathlon Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Abu Dhabi is the opening International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series event of the year, sparking an important 18 months as Olympic qualifying begins next year.

Brownlee is in the UAE this weekend to kick-start his Rio gold medal bid.

“I want to win gold, without a doubt,” Brownlee told Sport360, days before taking to the capital’s iconic Corniche.

“It’s going to be hard though. The other two medallists are still in great shape and there are some others who I’m sure fancy it as well, so it will be tough.”

The other two medallists he refers to are his older brother and Gomez, although Alistair dropped out of the event earlier this week.

Asked if Rio is his main focus this year, Brownlee said: “Yes and no. Yes, in that it’s the next major goal. No, because there are goals this season to achieve.”

His include performing well in the WTS, in which he finished third overall last year, behind Gomez and his fellow Spaniard Mario Mola, but ahead of Alistair who was fourth.

He also wants to become world champion again, something he achieved in 2012, finishing in the silver medal position in both 2011 and 2013.

“My aims for 2015 are two-fold,” he added.

“I want to do well in the Series and win the World Championships again. British athletes have the chance to qualify for the Olympic team at the Rio test event and Chicago Grand Final so that is a goal as well.”

The Rio test event will be held in August, on Fort Copacabana.

Despite adjoining Copacabana Beach, it will be no holiday for Brownlee at the Aquece Rio Open Series.

The Chicago Grand Final is the final WTS event of the year, which will be held between September 15-20.

Since London 2012, the Brownlee’s have continued to go head to head, both competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year.

Alistair again won gold, with little brother 11 seconds behind and winning silver.

Despite the fierce competition that exists between them, they still do most of their training together.

The Leeds native said: “The Commonwealth Games was good and the public really got into the mixed team relay which was good. It would be a great race to get into the Olympics.

“I think, as we have got a little older, we have got a little wiser,” he said.

“We are better at choosing when we race each other. We support each other a lot and do 90 percent of our training together.”

Away from the course, off the bike and out of the water, they have set up the Brownlee Foundation – which encourages primary school kids to have a go at triathlon.

“That has been very rewarding,” he added.

“From the Grand Final until the end of October we fulfilled a lot of commercial commitments, so that was a bit of a break.

“We were still active though, like the Sony Mobile challenge where we swum, biked and ran from Leeds up to the top of Scotland to test the battery life of their phone.

“Since then though we have been back into training and all has gone well, for me at least.

“We spent some weeks in Spain which was a bit warmer than the UK, so although it is hot here in Abu Dhabi, it has not been too much of a shock to the system.”

This weekend’s IPIC World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is a milestone event for the UAE and the Middle East as a whole.

Although the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon ran with great success from 2010 to 2014, 2015 marks the first year that the event will be part of the prestigious ITU World Triathlon Series.

Despite Alistair’s withdrawal, nine of the top 10 ranked men from 2014 will be on the Abu Dhabi start line, and the opening race of the men’s season is sure to be blistering.

While Gomez made history last year when he became just the second athlete to be crowned World Champion four times, he also missed out on a medal at every sprint race.

Brownlee and Mola, however, have repeatedly proven tough to beat down the finish chute of a 5km run.

Also expect South Africa’s Richard Murray and Portugal’s Joao Pereira to mix it up, while the likes of Italian Alessandro Fabian, Frenchman Vincent Luis and Swiss triathlete Sven Riederer are more than capable of factoring on the back half of a sprint race.

A non-wetsuit ocean swim could help Brownlee and Gomez snag an important advantage on the swim over Mola and Murray. 

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