x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Triathlon: Olympic gold medallist playing it cool

Great Britain's Olympic champion Alistair Brownle instructed local students on triathlon swimming and is preparing for a long cycle course at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon, writes Ali Khaled.

Olmpic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee talks with local students during a triathlon training session at Emirates Palace on Wednesday. Delores Johnson / The National
Olmpic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee talks with local students during a triathlon training session at Emirates Palace on Wednesday. Delores Johnson / The National

On Wednesday afternoon, Great Britain's Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee took time out from his training for Saturday's Abu Dhabi Triathlon to put some local schoolchildren through their paces on the Emirates Palace hotel beach. And in keeping with his affable nature, he seemed to be enjoying it as almost as much the youngsters did.

He had not, he said, checked out the course yet.

"I haven't been on it, but I've been in Abu Dhabi before and I kind of know where the course goes, up the Corniche and on to the F1 circuit, I'm looking forward it."

While the Egyptian triathlete Omar Nour was offering his top tips on running and cycling transitions, Brownlee took to the water to advise on the techniques that will give the budding athletes those big, and perhaps just as crucially, smaller advantages over your competitors.

In a running start, do not get bunched up.

Deep-water start? Float on your stomach and avoid being kicked in the face? Pick the right landmarks to ensure the most effective "sighting". And always pace your strokes to avoid burn out.

Conditions, of course, play a vital part in any particular course, and Abu Dhabi had thrown up a little, although perhaps not too unpleasant a surprise.

"It's supposed to be warm but it's quite cool at the moment, isn't it?" the Yorkshireman said with a smile. "But the big difference for me is the fact that it's a 100km bike ride rather than a 40km, so that's what I've been preparing for."

Brownlee is twice the triathlon world champion, in 2009 and 2011, and back-to-back European Triathlon Union winner in 2010 and 2011. Since the London Olympics, his profile has skyrocketed, as has that of the sport. Modesty, not surprisingly, stops him from accepting too much credit.

"I think it was partly due to the Olympics but I think triathlon has been on an [upwards] trajectory for a while now and I think the Games just helped it a little bit," he said of the sport's popularity in his home country.

"Not necessarily because of British success but because it was a great showcase for the sport, we had a fantastic course in central London watched by hundreds of thousands of people."

The "British success" he speaks of was of course his own gold medal performance. That day, his 22-year-old brother Jonny grabbed the bronze and Alistair was waiting at the finish line.

Brownlee also reinforced triathlon's status as a sport that anyone can enjoy by adding that "it was one of three events at the Olympics that anyone could just go and watch" without having to buy tickets.

On Saturday morning, there will be more than few around who will be taking up a similar offer in Abu Dhabi.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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