Jonny Brownlee knows a world-beater when he sees one and thinks fellow Team GB triathlon star Alex Yee can one day ‘dominate this sport’… after the 23-year-old won a valiant silver in Tokyo, who could disagree?
Jonny Brownlee knows a bit about being in proximity to greatness and he knows a world-beater when he sees one. He thinks he has seen one in Alex Yee and who would disagree?
If there is to be a resumption of Britain’s dominance of the Olympic triathlon stage, it is sure to come from the 23-year-old with the collection of stuffed monkeys who threw all sorts of muck around the cage of established athletes on Monday.
In his first Games, he won a brilliant silver that might have been a gold, but for the indefatigable running of a burly Norwegian, Kristian Blummenfelt.
Jonny Brownlee backed fellow Team GB star Alex Yee (above) to dominate triathlon in future
Yee (top) won the silver medal in the men’s individual triathlon, behind Kristian Blummenfelt
By the reckoning of Blummenfelt, the world No 2, he knew he had the race won ‘when I was standing on the pontoon’ before the swim.
But a more sensible assessment would note that Yee pushed him to the brink of collapse, and might even have climbed a step higher on the podium if the 10km run had gone to form.
They were level with only 2km to go and Yee, the younger man by four years, is an international calibre runner, so it was possibly even a surprise that he fell 11sec behind.
When it was all done, Blummenfelt departed in a wheelchair and Yee’s ears were burning with suggestions that he is the heir apparent to the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny.
And the younger Brownlee brother hailed his British team-mate as ‘a great all-round triathlete’
It was no less than Jonny who led the chorus. After finishing fifth in his final attempt to win gold, he said: ‘Alex is unbelievable. He’s a great runner, he’s got a great head on him and knows how to race.
‘He doesn’t let the big occasion worry him and he’s now converted himself into a great all-round triathlete. He deserves that medal.
‘For anyone who has watched the sport in the last two years, they will know that wasn’t a shock. They will have seen it coming.
‘Alex has got the ability now to dominate this sport. People are going to have to keep working out how to beat him because if they are not careful he’s going to win lots and lots of races.’
Jonny (left) and elder brother Alistair (right) won silver and gold respectively at the Rio Games
Yee was delighted with the result, albeit a joy tempered by a sense that he didn’t execute his run correctly.
He said: ‘It hasn’t sunk in quite yet, it doesn’t feel quite real that it’s me. I still just feel like a normal boy from south-east London and I hope I can just serve as an inspiration to many people that this is possible and I’m not anything special.’
He added: ‘I think I probably timed it (the run) a little bit wrong, leaving it a little bit late to close the gap to Kristian. Once I got halfway across it I was pretty cooked, I was starting to feel the heat and stuff.
‘I had a really good strategy and felt comfortable until that point but Kristian was the better man on the day.
‘I want to force my own circumstances and if that meant that I wasn’t a good enough runner on the day then that’s what it is. I wouldn’t change anything and I feel like I get a bit more respect in that sense as well.’
They are some footsteps that Yee will now follow in, with two-time Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee, 31, due to soon follow his double champion brother Alistair into retirement from triathlon.
Yee said: ‘Jonny still came fifth in this race – that’s pretty incredible. It’s hard to say what those guys will do but legends never die and they’ll always have created that legacy and brought up our sport because it wasn’t what it is before they started and now it’s got the platform. I hope I can kind of do the same.’
Not many doubt it.