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Alistair Brownlee opens up about the INCREDIBLE triathlon legacy he and Jonny are building as they help young people into sport

The Brownlee brothers are the past and present of British triathlon - but these two legends of the sport also have a firm hand on the future development of sport in the UK.

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The Brownlee brothers are the past and present of British triathlon – but these two legends of the sport also have a firm hand on the future development of sport in the UK.

Alistair and Jonny have become household names in the UK as crossover stars after their incredible golden exploits at multiple Olympic games – as well as that iconic moment in the blistering heat of Cozumel back in 2016.

The pair continue to race at the highest level – today (Saturday June 8) Alistair will take on a stellar field at the T100 showdown in San Francisco, while Jonny awaits confirmation on whether or not he will make the Great Britain Olympic team for Paris 2024.

Brownlees enabling sport for all

But away from professional triathlon racing, the two Yorkshiremen are leading an endeavour which is arguably even more significant – the constant drive to help youngsters to get into sport, and more importantly, to enjoy it.

The Brownlee Foundation has done incredible work so far, with a mission statement of “inspiring children from all backgrounds to enjoy sport, encourage them to lead active lifestyles and benefit from the opportunities sport provides.”

Started in 2014, the charity hit a significant milestone last year, as the 50,000th child smiled their way across the finish line at one of its events. That number continues to rise, and it is quite the legacy UK sport’s most famous brothers are building.

Alistair & Jonny Brownlee Foundation hits legacy milestone
Alistair and Jonny have now had more than 50,000 young people attend their Brownlee Foundation events.

This week Alistair spoke to highly-respected broadcaster Bob Babbitt on his acclaimed ‘Breakfast With Bob’ show (full episode at the foot of this page) and spoke about the endeavour which is so close to his and Jonny’s hearts.

“It’s been very important since post-London. What brought it on is getting invited into lots of school post-Olympics and people telling us that we were inspirational. We knew the only way we could kind of fulfil that legacy and responsibility was to really build something that could go out there and deliver it, because we couldn’t just do it as two people.”

The rest, as they say is history, but it’s a story which continues to write new chapters…

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‘It makes you very proud’

Alistair explained: “Last week we had five events in different cities, and had over 5,000 young people do different events with us. I went to two of them, which was absolutely fantastic.

“Whether it’s the smiling kids saying ‘we loved it and can we do it again’, and telling me that the swim or the bike was their favourite bit, or the teachers coming up to me completely unprompted, and saying ‘yeah this is fantastic, this is amazing. These are underprivileged young people and they wouldn’t get the opportunity to do anything like this unless you put it on’.

“Getting feedback from people saying it increased the activity in that class for the next year, so many people went away and joined triathlon clubs or athletic clubs. It’s fantastic, it makes you very proud and shows you how important these charitable, philanthropic organisations are because they fill gaps that I think need to be filled in society.”

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Triathlon doesn’t have to be expensive

Triathlon can be an extremely expensive sport, with equipment often running into five figures at the highest end of the sport. But as Alistair stresses, it doesn’t have to be like that at all levels.

“It doesn’t have to be that expensive sport with high barriers to entry. More importantly, I think triathlon is just a great vessel to get young people the exposure to swimming, cycling, running separately and triathlon in itself. Get them together.

“It allow us as a Foundation to get young people to a pool, get them to a leisure centre that they might not normally visit. Show them that there’s the facilities there – hopefully go home and tell their parents: ‘I went to this sports centre, I swam there or I ran there, I’d like to go back and do more swimming’.”

Alistair highlighted one of the challenges that youngsters face in the UK, and how the Brownlee Foundation can play a part in tackling it head on.

“I don’t know so much what it’s like in other countries, but I do know that in the UK for example there’s a crazy number of 11-year-olds coming out of primary schools who can’t swim a length.

“I think even just encouraging young people as a one-off to go our events and show them where a pool is, show them it’s friendly, show them exercise is fun, show them they can do it with their friends, show them it’s about participating and fun and not necessarily competition and hard, boring exercise in the gym.

“I think all of those things are important. We’re very aware our events are one-off, kind of inspirational activities and really providing follow-on activities around those for the passionate to keep on doing and interacting with is the key. But having that shop window, I think it’s so important for these young people that wouldn’t get to experience all of this otherwise.”

Proof of the long-lasting legacy the Brownlee brothers are building comes in the stories they hear of young people who continue to take part in sport and compete, many years on.

“Inspirational stories of people who did their first ever event, turning up with their school as a 10-year-old to a foundation event somewhere, joining a local tri club and now doing more of it, is absolutely fantastic to hear.”

Graham Shaw
Written by
Graham Shaw
Graham has been involved with TRI247 & RUN247 since the summer of 2021. Since then he has provided strategic direction for all news and is passionate about the growth of triathlon as a fan sport.
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