By Alistair Brownlee & Eilidh Hargreaves
A head of the World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii, double Olympic gold triathlete Alistair Brownlee explains how sport can change children’s lives
The below photo is of my brother Jonny and me, before a bike ride with our dad in the holidays. I was nine, and Jonny seven, and we were staying at our family summer house in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales.
I started sport when I was six, because I wanted to win medals. My mum had been a swimmer as a child, so she took me down to join the local club. Around the same time, I started under-10s school cross-country running. I was pretty rubbish because I was so young, but I kept going.
My first triathlon took place in Nottingham in the summer of 1996, when I was eight years old. I wanted to try everything as a kid: swimming, running, cycling, football, rugby and cricket. I’m useless at hand-eye coordination, but I really loved triathlon. It was technical and tactical and it caught my imagination.
Triathlon became my sole focus when I was 18 and I won the World Junior Championship in Lausanne. I went to Cambridge to study medicine, but I’d left by 19 to focus on qualification for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
I won the Olympics for the first time in 2012 in London, which was especially exciting. A home Games comes with a load of pressure, so to cross the finish line in front of the massive crowds was great. A thousand emotions hit me.
Doing all of this with my brother Jonny, who won bronze, has been amazing. We have played an important part in each other’s development, but we are very, very competitive. When it comes down to a race, it’s every man for himself – at the Rio Olympics in 2016 we became the first British brothers to finish first and second in an individual event at the Olympic Games.
We felt a duty to the legacy we had created, so we started the Brownlee Foundation in 2014 to give young people a chance to experience triathlon. Sport can impact a kid’s life in loads of different ways, from the obvious physical fitness to improved mental health. Learning focus and discipline at a young age certainly had a huge effect on me – I was so lucky.
This year we are running 10 mini triathlons and additional weekly sessions, which as many as 12,000 kids will participate in.
I‘m 31 now and racing long-distance triathlons. I’ve been training 350 days a year, 30 to 35 hours a week for next month’s World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.22-mile run).
Having a huge platform comes with a sense of responsibility, but it’s the oldest adage in sport that the biggest pressures are internal. This month I raced the 70.3 (half Ironman) World Championship in Nice, and I came second.
Now let’s see what happens in Kona.