Exclusive! Triathlon star Alistair Brownlee talks tea-making and Tokyo 2020

Olympic Channel podcast: Double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain has confessed to putting milk first in his traditional cup of tea.

British triathlete Alistair Brownlee has been using his downtime due to the lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak to make a lot of tea.

His shortcut is controversial.

“I must admit [I put] milk [in] first if I'm being lazy, because then you don't really have to mix it in,” the triathlete said on the Olympic Channel Podcast.

“But you shouldn't really take milk first. Sacrilege.”

I must admit [I put] milk [in] first if I'm being lazy - Alistair Brownlee's on making a cup of tea

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Brownlee’s normally jam-packed itinerary is much lighter than usual due the global coronavirus pandemic.

It’s also meant perfecting the ideal cup of tea at his home in Yorkshire.

“I think everything to having really hot water to drinking from the right type of China cups to the temperature of the milk - there's lots of things that go into it.

“It's a hard skill to master, but I'm working on it at the moment.”


Great Britain
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Number of medals

2 Olympic medals


Olympic Games

3 Olympic Games

Birthdays in the lockdown

Alistair turned 32 but couldn’t celebrate with family and friends due to the restrictions on movement in the United Kingdom.

“It's been okay. I think the difficult part is [that] we don't quite know how this whole situation is going to last in terms of when life is going to return to normal.

“And from a sporting point of view and when competition is going to be on again.”

Do you want to know how to get started in triathlon? Here is everything you need to know.

Alistair Brownlee leads brother Jonny during the running leg of the Rio 2016 triathlon

In the mix

Since its Olympic debut at Sydney 2000 there have been five triathlon gold medals available. Alistair Brownlee has won two of them (Rio 2016 and London 2012).

But with the addition of the triathlon mixed relay to the Olympic programme, Brownlee now has the opportunity to make it four golds out of a possible seven and cement his place in Olympic history.

“The mixed team relay is actually really exciting. It’s actually a format that I really like racing,” Brownlee said.

Mixed Relay - Triathlon | YOG 2018 Highlights

The Triathlon Mixed Relay race attracted a big crowd in Green Park on day 5...

The mixed relay event sees teams of two men and two women competing over a short course (300m swim, an 8km bike ride and a 2km run) before tagging a teammate to set off. Ominously for his competition, it is a format that Brownlee feels is well suited to his strengths as an athlete:

“Of course you have to be quick, but you also have to be able to put 20 minutes of solid racing together and be really good at your transitions and technically and tactical – which in lots of ways is what I'm good at.”

Brownlee Brothers spending lockdown apart

Competing in a team is something you would expect the Great Britain triathlete to excel at.

As one half of the famous “Brownlee brothers”, Alistair has lived and trained with his younger sibling Jonny for much of his life. Between them they hold four Olympic medals spanning the full spectrum of colours (two gold medals for Alistair, one bronze and one silver for Jonny).

“I was trying as hard as I could to qualify and be there… There were lots of big ‘ifs’ there. I would have had to race well to qualify and as a British team we could do with qualifying three spots as well, that we haven’t done.”

Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee celebrate after Rio 2016 win

Prior to the lockdown, both Brownlee brothers had been training at altitude in the United States, striving to reach the level of performance they would need to fulfil their Olympic ambitions.

And while Alistair has made his mind up about wanting to compete in Tokyo, the small matter of Olympic qualification is an issue that still needs to be resolved.

I was just hoping to throw everything at it and have one last good Olympic experience.

But while there are still many questions waiting to be answered, the lure of the Olympics has made Brownlee determined to give everything he has to succeed at next year’s Games.

“The Olympics means a hell of a lot to me. I’ve been lucky to go to the Olympics three times. 14-year-old me wouldn’t believe me if I said I’d been to the Olympics three times and won twice.”

“So I feel like I’m up on that. But, you know it would have been fantastic to go and compete again.”

Men's Triathlon | Rio 2016 Replay

Gold: Alistair Brownlee. Silver: Jonathan Browlee. Bronze: Henri Schoeman.

Coping with the coronavirus situation

For now, due to the current pandemic and subsequent postponement of the Games, all Brownlee can do is wait.

For many athletes it’s a situation that has devastated them, as years of carefully made plans have been scuppered in an instant.

It’s a reaction that Brownlee feels his younger self would also have had.

I feel really sorry – and a lot of empathy – for those guys for who this was their big day

“One of my first thoughts on hearing it was, I’m kind of glad for me it wasn’t eight years ago, because in 2012 it was the biggest day of my life,” Brownlee reflects.

“For seven years before, I’d prepared for it and I was ready to go out and race. And so I feel really sorry – and a lot of empathy – for those guys for who this was their big day.”

Men’s Triathlon, London 2012

Brothers Alistair and Jonny Brownlee race against the world's best in the 2...

But as one of the most experienced athletes on the circuit, Brownlee does have some advice for athletes who are struggling to come to terms with the current situation they find themselves in.

“I think one strategy is to disassociate as much as you can from the preparation…

It’s kind of hard to have that level of intensity of training and focus and mindset for long periods of time. For some people that’s weeks, for other people that’s months and many months, but I’m pretty sure for no-one it’s 15 months.

“So just spend a bit of time to train as hard as you can, but around that try and relax and have other focuses. Whatever that might be.

Learn to play the guitar, or cook, or read - Brownlee's on coping with coronavirus shutdown

“That should hopefully give you a bit of perspective on the situation. And I think with that perspective you’ll be fresher and as ready as ever to get back and focus as hard as you can for when 2021 rolls around for the Olympics that summer.”

Could a fresh and ready Alistair Brownlee double his medal haul at next year’s Olympic Games? The answer will be worth waiting for.

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