Jonathan Brownlee would prefer to not be remembered for his most famous moment.
That moment in Mexico in 2016, when he teetered on the verge of collapse due to exhaustion near the end of his World Triathlon Championships race before being helped to the finish line by his elder brother Alistair, went viral on social media in capturing the drama of the gruelling sport as well as the heartwarming act of brotherly devotion.
Understandably, for a triathlete who is a former Triathlon World Champion and a silver-medallist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the 28-year-old Briton does not want his public moment of vulnerability to overshadow his sizeable career achievements.
He told Yahoo News Singapore over a conference call earlier in January, “Do I get tired of it? Yeah, a little bit. I kind of don’t want to get remembered for that. I don’t want my whole sporting career to be defined by the collapse. So, I do get tired of getting asked, but I also realise that it’s a special moment for sport and for me.”
Preparations for heat in Singapore
That Mexico race, however, gave him an important insight into himself – that he is not very good in sweltering heat. Which is why, as he prepares to compete in February’s Super League Triathlon finale in hot and humid Singapore, he is heading first to Thailand for a 10-day training stint to get used to the heat.
He has even converted his West Yorkshire home’s glass conservatory into a heat chamber, so that he can get the room temperature to about 30 to 35 deg C. He can then exercise inside the conservatory on a special bike and a treadmill.
“I’ve been doing it for two years now,” he quipped. “I’ve been in the chamber three times a week about an hour a time. It’s horrible because you get all sweaty and you got to clean up.”
Brownlee will be hoping that all the preparation will pay off in Singapore on 23 and 24 February, when the inaugural Super League Triathlon reaches its climax at One Degree 15 Marina Club at Sentosa Cove.
The brainchild of another former world champion, Australian Chris McCormack, the series features innovative race formats which are shorter than the traditional Olympic format (1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run) and modified for TV-friendliness as well as crowd appeal.
The Singapore leg will see the eliminator and enduro formats. The eliminator race on Saturday (23 February) comprises three rounds of swim-bike-run, with a 10-minute break between each round. The top 15 triathletes will reach the second round, after which the top 10 will make the final round.
The enduro race on Sunday features three non-stop rounds involving a 300m swim, 5km bike ride and 1.6km run. The two slowest triathletes at the end of each discipline will be eliminated.
“The one thing about the Super League is you can’t have any weaknesses and the enduro format really really finds it out,” Brownlee said. “The World Triathlon Series format can be very boring sometimes because the courses aren’t very exciting. You can get away with a bad swim or a bad cycle because the courses aren’t very exciting. Whereas in Super League, you’ve got to be strong across all three disciplines and if you’re weak swimmer or a weak biker, you are going to get caught out.
“So, the series can definitely settle the debate on who is the best all-around triathlete and that’s what makes it fun. You’re on the start line knowing it’s really hard and the best all-around triathlete is going to win.”
Hoping for good start to 2019
Brownlee will be competing with illustrious peers such as South Africa’s Commonwealth Games champion Henri Schoeman and series leader Vincent Luis of France for a cool US$1.5 million (S$2.05 million) prize purse, which includes US$20,000 each for the men’s and women’s winners of the Singapore leg, and US$100,000 each for the men’s and women’s overall series winners.
He is currently fourth in the overall standings, and hopes that a Singapore leg victory – especially as the leg awards double the points for the athletes’ placings – can move him up at least one spot for a podium finish. It would be a great start to 2019 for him, after he endured an injury-hit 2018 which hampered his bid for Commonwealth Games honours in April.
“For me now, the 2020 Olympics is a massive goal,” he said. “I’ve got a bronze in 2012 and a silver in 2016, so I’d like to go 2020 and get a gold – or even two golds because there are two events. So good luck to me.
“I want to qualify this year and there are two important races for us this year so I would like to go to them in good form and qualify. To be on the start line in 2020 in the best shape will involve going to a lot of hot places for training camps and lots of hard training. Hopefully I can be there in good shape and compete well.”
Team Singapore athletes to compete at Super League Triathlon
Besides the keenly-contested race series, the Super League Triathlon will also see the elite triathletes promoting the sport via community engagement sessions organised by Sport Singapore.
SportSG will also send three teams to take part in the Team Enduro competition on 24 February. Two of those teams will feature Team Singapore athletes such as former Asian Games gold-medallist swimmer Tao Li, national netball team captain Charmaine Soh and members of the national water-polo, floorball and cricket teams.
The public can also sign up for the Team Enduro competition, or join in the fun by signing up for the 2.5km Fun Run and race on the same course as the professionals. Fun Run participants will get $50 worth of goodies with every entry. To sign up, go to superleaguetriathlon.com
Brownlee hopes the Super League Triathlon can eventually grow to become a popular mass participation event. He said, “People want to race only if it’s fun and it’s a new challenge. Super League ticks all those boxes.”