Triathlete kicks up a storm in the desert

Olympian Alistair Brownlee dives into the Middle East with his debut at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

    Triathlete kicks up a storm in the desert
    Alistair Brownlee, pictured left, won triathlon gold at the London Games as younger brother Jonny, right, took bronze [GALLO/GETTY]

    Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi; Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier; the Pakistan and India cricket teams: the greatest of sporting moments are often defined by the greatest of rivalries.

    As one half of Britain’s best known sporting siblings, Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion Alistair Brownlee is no stranger to power of sporting rivalry.

    Brownlee spoke to Al Jazeera about the "massive" role his younger brother plays in his success and how he is preparing for the warm Arabian climate, one week before competing in the Middle East’s premier triathlon competition. 

    "I fancied trying a bit of different racing this year. I’ve spent a few years focusing on the London Olympics, and felt it necessary to have some fresh challenges, to keep my interest high," said the 24-year-old athlete.

    "There is a lot of growth in all sports in the Middle East. So I can only see triathlon going from strength to strength."

    Brownlee kickstarts his 2013 season with the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on March 2, with a 1.5k swim followed by a gruelling 100k bike race, before finishing off with a 10k run.

    With a prize pot of $230,000 for the elite athletes, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon offers one of the richest purses in the game.

    The energy sapping temperatures along with the 100k bike leg – 60km more than Brownlee usually races – will no doubt put his endurance and speed to the test.

    "I think I should be able to come out near the front of the swim and would hope to have one of the fastest run splits. The only unknown is the bike really."

    "I’ve just had a few weeks in the south of Spain to try and get used to a bit of hotter weather," he added.

    The 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon starts with a sunrise swim in the Arabian Gulf’s turquoise waters, before weaving through closed roads along the Corniche Beach, up to the Yas Island and back to the city centre finish line.

    The 24-year-old is not fazed by the humidity or temperature shift, which could be 30 degrees higher than those in his home county of West Yorkshire, where he regularly trains.

    "I might use a heat chamber. My brother and I did a lot in the heat chamber before the London Olympics as it can be very humid that time of year."

    "I’m really just a big fan of wearing white clothing to be honest. I had a really bad experience once wearing a black helmet, in really hot weather. That and I’ll make sure I am properly hydrated," he added.

    Brotherly love

    Training and competing with his brother Jonathan, a world champion and the London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist, has "massively" affected Brownlee’s career.

    "I think I would have still been a triathlete without [brother] Jonny, but I don't think I could have pushed myself so hard every day in training without him. Not many Olympic champions get to train everyday with the world champion."

    - Alistair Brownlee

    "I think I would have still been a triathlete without Jonny, but I don’t think I could have pushed myself so hard every day in training without him.

    "Not many Olympic champions get to train everyday with the world champion," said Brownlee.

    As to the future, the Briton, who competed in his first duathlon at the tender age of eight, is not resting on his laurels.

    "I’d love to defend my Olympic title. That would really mean a lot. Also, I have never won a Commonwealth medal, so I am looking forward to giving that a go next year in Glasgow," he added.

    He predicts a bright future for the sport in the Middle East and sees no reason why the region can’t produce the next generation of gold medallists to underline the growing popularity of the sport.
    "Hopefully not while me and my brother are still competing," he added jokingly.

    "But after we retire I don’t see any reason why not. It’s a great climate for cycling."

    Brownlee will compete against one of the Arab world’s only elite athletes, Egyptian Omar Nour and the UAE’s youngest triathlete Sam O’Shea, a 14-year-old who is originally from the United Kingdom.

    The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon offers three course distances; the 223k ‘long course’ (3k swim, a 200k cycle and 20k run), the half-length ‘short’ course (1.5k swim, a 100k cycle and a 10k run) and the sprint course (750m swim, a 50k bike and 5k run).

    Samrana Hussain is a freelance journalist who writes on international sport and news. She has covered three Olympic Games including Beijing 2008, London 2012 and numerous other global sporting events.

    Follow her on Twitter @SamranaH

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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