In my mind, Alistair Brownlee is the greatest triathlete competing today. His record at the highest level of the sport, ITU’s World Triathlon Series, is staggering: 12 wins out of 15 that he’s competed at. No other men have more than 3 wins. He was World Junior, U23, and Senior Champion, a feat that no one else has accomplished before. And then there is that Olympic Gold. He is certainly one of the most dominant athletes of any sport.
Gatorade UK followed Alistair and his brother Jonathan (Bronze medalist) as they prepared for the London Olympics. This video isn’t one of those training day videos like we’ve seen Specialized do with other triathletes (which are great too), but more of a series of interviews from different perspectives stating why they are the best in the world.??In this documentary, I think it shows it is a combination of three things.
- They have the genetics. No one becomes the best at anything without having a certain level of talent. Alistair has said in the past that he thinks he’s actually pretty slow and doesn’t naturally possess that fast twitch that some of his competitors do, making him sound like just another clumsy endurance athlete. His “talent” lies in his capacity to train. Much like Galen Rupp’s “key to success lies in his ability to recover (via Steve Magness),” the Brownlee Boys are so good because they can handle more training.
I marvel at the capacity that they have for training and the focus that they’ve got on training… They do have to push themselves beyond what a normal person would push themselves through. But they actually quite enjoy doing that — that’s what they do.
- That quote touches on the next point. They have a passion for their sport. The physical capacity to train means nothing if you can’t motivate yourself to push hard everyday. They like to swim, bike, run; they like to compete; they love to win, and that’s what they’ve spent their lives doing.
??When Alistair got injured, it wasn’t about “Oh I’m not going to be able to race in this race; I’m not going to be able to do that and I’m not going to be able to do that.” It was just purely a, “Oh, I just can’t go out and run.” And that’s what he loves doing, that’s how he relaxes, that’s how he de-stresses, that’s just what he loves doing.
Obviously obsessiveness can drive you to get up everyday and drive you to do that, but I think it can’t necessarily drive you to push that little bit further when you need to sometimes, and I think that’s when enjoyment and love for the sport take you that little bit further.
- Finally, they have each other. They have the ultimate daily training environment in the world (in Northern England of all places…). To be the best, you have to surround yourself with the best.
I have had the advantage to train with the world’s best triathlete. I can see exactly what he did, exactly what he did the year before to become world champion, and exactly what he’s doing now. It’s a massive advantage because you’re learning from the best, you’re learning from the top of the sport, and you think, “you know, you’ve got to be right.”
As I move forward with my own triathlon career, I will aim to maximize those three things in an effort to see my full potential. Whether that is winning a sprint finish with one of the Brownlee brothers or simply standing on a podium at a Continental Cup race, only time will tell.
June 2015: This video used to be posted on Youtube. The video has since been removed. Here is a link to the video on Universal Sports.
Want more Brownlees?
The Brownlees co-authored a book called Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story. In the book, Alistair and Jonathan recount their upbringing and how they got involved with triathlons. They also share some of their secrets that make them two of the best triathletes in the history of the sport. Buy it now on Amazon.