I have realised the irony in that this challenge is geared around triathlons, yet so far none of the Sporting Heroes I have featured have actually been triathletes. Well fear not dear reader, as just like buses, after 6 months of waiting for a high profile race to seamlessly link into my blog, two have come along at once! – Update: I have also just realised I have already done July’s entry, so this has now become an early runner for August!
Of course I am talking about England’s fantastic success on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games, where after finally getting the recognition they deserve in the London Olympics, some of the top elite triathletes this country has to offer have pulled off another fantastic result.
I need to give particular credit to Alistair Brownlee first of all, as ultimately he was the first to really break through into the headlines. When I first started getting into triathlon in 2010 he was the reigning World Champion, and he was clearly a massive inspiration for me in stepping up from what started as a small relay race, to a full on Olympic distance and beyond. Following this success he went on to win the Worlds again the next year, followed of course by the famous Olympic gold in 2012, and he now has the ‘full house’ of gold medals, a unique feat in the triathlon world.
His win today was by the equivalent of a country mile, and as well as picking up flags and high-fiving spectators, he probably had time for a nice cuppa before crossing the line to win gold – and being a good Yorkshire lad I would expect no less – I would know having married into a Sheffield based family myself, although that is probably about as close as I could compare myself to him!
What I loved about Alistair’s win today was how laid back about it he was. During his races his expressions generally give the impression he is about to die from exertion or worse, but a few minutes later he will seem back to normal. There was a picture of him casually cycling back to base after the race, at a time when most people would barely be able to walk! He also has a classic British attitude and humility, and during his post-win interview on the BBC today he seemed more embarrassed at the fact he was getting attention for winning than anything else. Actually, that is probably fairly similar to my own post-race discussions, although without the winning part!
When he is on form Alistair is simply unbeatable, particularly on the run leg where despite being thinner than a rake he seems to be able to maintain his pace for ever, but increasingly in all three disciplines where he continues to improve all around. He even seems to be able to take it further, having won some longer distance races in the last year or so, and bearing in mind he is still only in his 20’s, lets hope he also has a future in the Ironman world.
He is also human too, as seen back in London 2010 where he famously ‘hit the wall’ and collapsed towards the end of the run leg. Bearing in mind this was just a few months before my first ever race, just as I was getting into my training stride, this was a little intimidating, but that is just how it goes!
It seems harsh to talk about Ali so much without mentioning Jonny, who for most people has to carry the ‘always the bridesmaid’ type mantle. But lets not forget, this is a guy who has also won the World Championships, has an Olympic bronze medal and is one of the few guys capable of keeping pace with Alistair. They really help each other out, as shown today where they were able to take turns pushing on the bike whilst miles ahead of the main pack, whilst at the same time there is no team orders here, and they really are racing each other to get the best out of themselves.
The fact these guys are brothers is quite simply frightening, to think how each is able to inspire the other to really give it their all. As well as doing all of their training together, they actually live together, which must be one hell of a household to be around. Both Ali & Jonny are incredibly inspirational to me, and it is great to be able competing in triathlons while we are going through such a golden age for the sport.
It is not just the men though: The first medals of today were won by our equally dominant and inspirational ladies team, led by the mighty Jodie Stimpson. Hailing from the outskirts of Birmingham just a few miles from my own base, Jodie is the person to beat this year, taking the gold medal in the women’s event and threatening to add the World Championships to her haul. As a fellow West Midlander she also talks properly which is a good thing to see on national TV. Not only did we take first place, but fellow elite and former 220 magazine columnist Vicky Holland also took a well deserved bronze, giving us a total of 4 medals in just the first two races, with the team relays still to come this weekend – Go Team England!