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Alex Yee exclusive: Stepping out of the shadow of the Brownlees and into a league of his own

Great Britain’s Tokyo 2020 triathlon silver medallist has the chance to become world champion this weekend in the final of the World Triathlon Championship Series that takes place on Saturday 26 November in Abu Dhabi. If he does triumph, he will become the youngest world champion since Alistair Brownlee in 2009. 

5 min By Sean McAlister
Alex Yee poses with his silver medal from Tokyo 2020
(Picture by 2021 Getty Images)

Alex Yee’s first memory of the Olympics was a decade ago when the Games were held in his home city of London in 2012.

It’s often hard to put a value on the legacy of a Games, but talking to Yee it is obvious how much of an impact those weeks in England’s capital had on the young, up-and-coming London-born athlete.

“I probably would say I’m a product of the 2012 Olympics being from London, but also being the first Olympics I can remember watching live was amazing,” Yee reflected in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com in June 2022. “I guess that’s one of the big coincidences that London was the host city and I was able to watch that. Everything kind of fell into place and it was really inspirational.”

Twelve years old at the time of the Games, Yee attended the Olympic triathlon competition, but struggled to see much of the action unfold in front of him due to the size of the crowd cheering on two Brits competing that day: Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.

Still, the memories of that day left a lasting impression on Yee, who credits it as one of the main reasons he loves the sport of triathlon.

“That just gave me a flavour of what the composition of a triathlon was and it was just cool to see,” he explained, looking back on the inspiration those childhood experiences had on his choice to dedicate his life to triathlon.

For a young triathlete growing up in Britain it must have been hard to escape the presence of the Brownlee brothers who won gold and bronze in London, before following it up with another pair of medals - this time gold and silver - four years later at Rio 2016.

Alistair, who stood on the top step of the podium at both of those Games, is inarguably Britain’s greatest Olympic triathlete, and three years before London 2012 triumphed in the World Triathlon Championship Series to become the world champion at age 21.

Now, ten years after the London Games, Yee has the chance to become the series' youngest champion since Brownlee all the way back in 2009.

Belief grows from learning from the best

As an athlete with ambitions to reach the pinnacle of your sport, some lessons are invaluable.

For Yee, having the chance to train with and learn from the Brownlee brothers proved to be a vital experience on his road to the elite levels of triathlon.

“I started training with them at the back end of their preparation for the Rio Olympics,” said Yee about his first opportunities to work alongside the Brownlees.

“I was going back and forth from London to Leeds, doing bits of training there and back here in London. I remember training with them before their first and second [place finishes] in Rio and seeing how meticulous they were, how amazing they were and how hard they worked.”

But perhaps as important as any training tips Yee could glean from the brothers, the self-belief those days instilled in him was essential for his growth as an athlete.

“The fact they were just human and these guys were at the top of our sport. I really believed that I could potentially be as good as them, if not better than them one day.

“I think that for me being able to train that environment and them to bring me in and allow me to do that was really something that made me believe that this would be possible.”

Tokyo glory and a chance to become world champion

Yee’s performance at the last Olympics in Tokyo showed just how far he has come since those first days of training alongside the Brownlees.

At just 23 years old, he put in an immense performance to win individual silver in his first Olympic Games, following it up days later with gold in the first-ever mixed relay to take place at an Olympics.

It is an experience that he still hasn’t fully processed.

“It still hasn’t sunk in now honestly that all that stuff happened,” he told us. “I think Team GB the other day put up a reel of us racing and I looked at it and thought, ‘is that actually me?’”

Now just over a year on from that glorious summer, Yee has the chance to make more history by becoming champion of the world.

He currently sits second in the World Triathlon Championship Series standings, just behind New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde, the athlete who finished in the bronze medal position when Yee won gold in Tokyo.

Both know that victory in the season finale in Abu Dhabi will secure them the title. However, win or lose on Saturday, Yee’s progress over the last year has taken him out of the shadow of the Brownlees and into a league of his own as Britain’s greatest competing male triathlete.

You can follow Alex Yee in the finale of the World Triathlon Championship Series right here on Olympics.com

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