Alex Yee: The British triathlete taking on the Brownlee brothers

By Ben CroucherBBC Sport
Alex Yee
Alex Yee is targeting a Team GB spot for Tokyo 2020
Triathlon World Series
Venue: Yokohama Date: Saturday, 15 May Start: 02:00 and 04:50 BST Coverage: Red button, iPlayer and BBC Sport website

Alex Yee was 14 when the Brownlee brothers first graced the Olympic podium at London 2012. By the time they finished one-two in Rio, four years later, he hadn't even started university.

Now, he could be the man to prevent older Brownlee brother Alistair even making it on to the plane to the Tokyo Games.

Yee, 23, trained in Leeds with the Brownlees for three years before switching to Loughborough in 2020.

He will be in Yokohama this weekend for the opening round of the 2021 World Triathlon Series alongside Jonny Brownlee and Tom Bishop, aiming to enhance his credentials for Team GB this summer.

Alistair is missing the event through injury and with currently only one spot available alongside Jonny in the Olympic squad, Yee is the second best-placed Briton in the standings.

"When I first joined Leeds, I was almost in awe of them," Yee told BBC Sport.

"Gradually as things progressed I realised they're only human, but incredible and they have achieved so much."

Double Olympic and world champion Alistair is Great Britain's most successful triathlete, with younger sibling Jonny adding Olympic silver and bronze to his 2012 world title.

Having switched focus to the Ironman distance after the Rio Olympics, Alistair is still in contention for Team GB later this year, and intends to use his only remaining Olympic-distance race in Leeds to put himself in the frame for a fourth Games.

"It's still surreal that I'm in the same conversations as Alistair and Jonny," said Yee, who finished second on his World Triathlon Series debut in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

"They're two of the greatest athletes ever to do triathlon. That's pretty surreal to be competitive with them. That gives me confidence that if I do get selected, there's a real opportunity."

He added: "There's so much unknown with regards to the Olympics and what it'll take.

"Delivery of my best races will give me the best opportunity. That's what I'll focus on."

Getting into a 'flow state'

Although relatively inexperienced at elite level, Yee - who placed fifth at last year's World Championships - is no stranger to international competition.

In 2018, he won the British 10,000m title, before finishing 14th at the European Championships.

Last year, in a road race in Lancashire, he ran under the old British 5,000m record in a race that saw Marc Scott lower the mark to 13:20.external-link

"Because there'd been such a long period away from racing, I found clarity in why I do what I do," he said.

"Over lockdown, I found consistency in my training. Stripping back, going to train because you love what you do really came through.

"I felt like I flowed in that race. It's almost like an out-of-body experience. Everything feels, not effortless but, very present. It's indescribable."

He added: "You have to transition into a flow state to get your best results psychologically.

"There are specific approaches that I've worked with someone to develop and hopefully get me in the best mental state on the start line, and the presence during a race."

Alex Yee
Yee, 23, represented Great Britain in the 10,000m at the 2018 European Athletics Championships

A new lockdown location

His improvement, exemplified by two podium finishes at the virtual Super League triathlon events in London and Rotterdam this year, could be also be attributed to a relocation from his old training base to be with his girlfriend, Wales triathlete Olivia Mathias.

Initially moving to the Loughborough so the two could be together during lockdown, Yee stayed when he found the new training structure was working for him.

"It shows how crazy Covid has been," he said. "I couldn't have comprehended a move like that prior.

"I stayed here because I've not been able to go back since and it's worked out really well.

"I miss a lot of the people back in Leeds but it's been really good training here. I've got the right support behind me."

That support includes Mathias, who Yee credits for keeping him going during the initial lockdown last year.

"Liv's been critical," he said. "During lockdown, she was somebody who got me out of the door when it was tough.

"She's been developing in the same timeframe as I have and will be racing in her first World Series at Leeds which is quite exciting,

"It's been so exciting to follow her journey and be on it together."

With the women's team for the Olympics already confirmed, and foreign spectators banned, Mathias won't be joining Yee in Tokyo should he make it.

The couple won mixed relay silver at the Under-23 World Championships in 2019, with Yee taking bronze in the senior event a year later, alongside Jess Learmonth, Barclay Izzard and 2020 individual World champion Georgia Taylor-Brown.

Given his sprint success this spring in the Super League triathlons, and his track pedigree making him one of the fastest runners in the sport, could the addition of the mixed relay to Tokyo play to Yee's advantage when it comes to selection?

"I really enjoy the element of the fourth leg," he concluded. "You get the easy job of finishing the race.

"Hopefully in the right scenario it could suit me."

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