Jonny Brownlee might have ‘completed’ the Olympic medal set but is still racing and chasing his lifelong dream: the perfect triathlon.
The 32-year-old memorably completed the set of Olympic medals with mixed relay gold in Tokyo, having won individual silver and bronze at the previous two Games.
Brownlee stepped off the blue carpet and announced he was done and dusted over Olympic distance – like brother Alistair, he would step up to long-distance racing.
First, Jonny’s plan was to jet off on a long holiday and switch off from training. How did that go?
“Not much of that really happened,” chuckled Brownlee. “I planned but didn’t book stuff and that was probably the mistake I made.
“I’m an endurance athlete, my default is to train. Looking back I probably did go back into training too quickly and I should have enjoyed the post-Tokyo period a bit more.
“I wanted to carry on from a good Tokyo, to keep coming back and showing I can do it.”
Among the things that turned Brownlee’s head was the revelation from a reporter in interviews after the mixed relay that his run leg had been the fastest of the whole field.
That planted the seed for one of the sharpest U-turns in swim, bike, run history – a fact that his nearest and dearest won’t let him forget.
“My training partners and girlfriend have been telling me ‘you weren’t going to do this, you weren’t going to try and qualify,’” he said.
“Hearing about how quick I’d run made me go, ‘wow, maybe I can do this again!’”
We are now in the fourth epoch of Brownlee’s 16-year odyssey in the sport and there are two secrets behind his next push.
“I’ve changed the mentality of training and being more relaxed around it,” I revealed. “I definitely got carried away with wanting every session to be perfect and better than the week before.
“I’ve gone into it with the view that a decent session is 95% of the way there, you can’t be a world-beater every day.
“Secondly, nutrition, I’ve made a big change because my diet wasn’t the best. I’m eating less bread, less cakes, less sugar. It’s about relaxing into it and Tokyo helped with that, knowing I’ve achieved everything I ever wanted to achieve.”
His main target for 2022 is a home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
He will also target new courses and low-key World Cup events, citing racing in Sardinia as an example of a long-held ambition.
Brownlee added: “The main aim is the Commonwealth Games.
“I would really like to perform at a major Games at home once again and I love the Commonwealth Games and competing for Team England and racing at home. That’s a big, big aim for me.”
World Cups still contribute Olympic ranking points for Britain, of course, as the Yorkshireman plots a path to a fourth Games in Paris in 2024.
The bigger goal is to race what Brownlee calls a ‘perfect triathlon’.
Timings and world records in triathlon are a misnomer given no two races are the same, but Alistair’s run to gold in London 2012 is acknowledged as the peak of that discipline.
In true brotherly fashion, Jonny wants to go one better and reach racing nirvana.
“Alistair’s run in London is the benchmark and I’d like to get back towards that, to feel like I can race a whole 10km as fast as I want to,” said Jonny.
“That was a perfect triathlon, he was fourth or fifth out of the water, was the strongest on the bike and then had that amazing run.
“It can happen again and I wouldn’t continue to race Olympic distance if I didn’t think it was possible.
“I need to make sure I don’t overtrain and go into races with a perfect mind and a perfect body. I’ve raced the last few years with niggles and things.
“The conditions, the atmospheric conditions also need to come together to have that perfect race. I believe I can do it and I would obviously be absolutely delighted if it happened in Paris.”
Swim, bike, run in Britain will have a 2022 to remember with AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds on 11-12 June, triathlon and paratriathlon at Birmingham Commonwealth Games on 29 and 31 July, and Volvo 2022 World Triathlon Para Series Swansea on 6 Aug.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.