Triathlon: Rio event will be Leeds versus the world

Sun Jul 31, 2016 6:08pm EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Triathlon was invented in San Diego, made famous in Hawaii and polished on the beaches of Australia but the sport’s current epicenter, home to five Britons with serious Olympic prospects, is the slightly less glamorous northern British city of Leeds.

Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, gold and bronze medalists in the 2012 Games, have always been based in Yorkshire, eschewing warm-weather training camps in South Africa's Stellenbosch and Boulder, Colorado, that have attracted so many of their compatriots over the years to instead bike and run on the same lanes and fells they knew as boys.

Their success, and that of coaches Jack Maitland and Malcolm Brown and their esteemed high-performance center in Leeds, has persuaded a host of other hopefuls that Yorkshire is the place to be.

Gordon Benson, the surprise third pick for the British team to act as a "domestique" for the Brownlees, was brought up in nearby Halifax, is studying at Leeds University and is now a regular training partner for the brothers.

On the women's side, 2013 world champion Non Stanford made the move to Leeds in 2011, while Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Vicky Holland joined her two years later. The two women train together, cook together and relax together in the house they share.

Wales-based double world champion Helen Jenkins is the odd one out of the six British Olympians in not calling Leeds home.

Such is the impact the former industrial city has made on the sport that it now hosts the British leg of the Triathlon World Series. The Brownlees finished 1-2 in that one this year of course, while Holland was third in the women's race won by hot Rio favorite Gwen Jorgensen of the United States.

The Brownlee boys are famed for remaining the most grounded of sportsmen despite their success. They shared a house until soon after their 2012 Olympic glory, and still live a stone's throw from each other.   Continued...

Britain's Alistair Brownlee celebrates after winning in the men's triathlon final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Hyde Park August 7, 2012.   REUTERS/Jorge Silva