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Jonny Brownlee: Next medal 'extra special'
6:43pm Monday 14th July 2014 in Sport
EVEN more than his Olympic champion brother Alistair, Jonny Brownlee has been triathlon's Mr Dependable.
Injury and illness have meant that, as well as a ridiculous number of victories in this unpredictable sport, Alistair has also bombed in a few races.
Not Jonny. He always finished on the podium – occasionally even ahead of his older brother. Then came this year's World Triathlon Series race in Yokohama in May.
Jonny had not had the best start to the season, being well beaten by big rival Javier Gomez in Auckland and Cape Town while Alistair recovered from his latest injury.
But in Yokohama he was fifth. Remarkably, it was the first time he had not been on the podium in 50 races – a run stretching back four years to a time when he was barely out of juniors.
Hyde Park, the venue where he won Olympic bronze behind Alistair and Gomez, offered an opportunity for salvation two weeks later but again Jonny could only manage fifth place.
Even Alistair had to settle for two fourths – but he was coming back from injury and was on the top step of the podium again at the European Championships last month.
Jonny chose not to go to Kitzbuhel, instead concentrating on the Commonwealth Games, and should he make the podium in Glasgow, it will be a special moment indeed.
The 24-year-old, who is a more open character than his brother, seems happy to delve into his struggles, explaining: "It's been a strange year.
"I started so early but I wanted to be in top form for the Commonwealths, so it's been difficult. I don't think I've really got going. But the last few weeks my track times have changed completely and I've felt a lot better.
"Triathlon is an endurance sport and you can't peak too many times in the season. If you want to do well in the World Series, you have to perform okay throughout and not have any ups and downs, which I don't like.
"It has been tough. It seems very different, not being on the podium. I guess it's been good in a way, because it's taken a bit of the pressure off me, and it's also quite nice to see other people coming through.
"It means you have to think about things differently. Our training's been the same for so long and maybe it had got a bit boring for me. I've been talking to my coaches and we've had to change a few little things.
"Definitely a lot of people have thought it was normal for me and Alistair to be on the podium all the time when it's a very hard thing to do.
"These are the best triathletes in the world and if you're one or two per cent off, then you're not going to be up there. The next time I get on the podium, it's going to be extra special."
Triathlon is much more European-dominated than it used to be, so the Commonwealths will be missing some star names – in particular world champion Gomez.
But South African Richard Murray, who currently sits fourth in the world rankings, offers some serious competition to the Bingley Harriers duo Brownlees, while Australian pair Ryan Bailie and Aaron Royle are also in the world's top ten.
David McNamee is Scotland's best hope of a medal, while an English clean sweep would not be entirely out of the question.
Joining the Bramhope-based Brownlees – who finished first (Alistair) and third (Jonny) in Hamburg at the weekend – is 26-year-old Aaron Harris, who is enjoying a breakthrough season after top-ten finishes in Cape Town and Yokohama.
The Hampshire athlete admitted he had considered giving up the sport, saying: "The last two years all the guys I came up with seemed to be getting in the top ten and having great results and I was thinking 'Why are these guys making it and not me?'
"I took a step back in the middle of last season and thought about what needed to change. I was having bad results and I just thought, 'If I'm not making a living or qualifying for major championships, what is the goal?'"
Some gloss has been taken off the women's race by the absence of reigning world champion Non Stanford from the Welsh team because of injury.
But it still looks set to be a battle between England and Wales in the shape of Jodie Stimpson and two-time former world champion Helen Jenkins.
Jenkins has returned from 18 months out through injury with a series of impressive performances, while Stimpson won in Auckland and Cape Town and will be desperate for gold after the despair of missing out on selection for London 2012.
Vicky Holland and Lucy Hall, who joined Jenkins in the British team in London, make up the England trio.
Australian duo Emma Moffatt and Emma Jackson should be medal contenders, while New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt won bronze eight years ago in Melbourne.
England and Australia are likely to fight it out for gold in the mixed relay, which makes its Commonwealth Games debut.