ALISTAIR Brownlee is set to target a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo after admitting his much-publicised move up to longer distances has not gone entirely to plan.

The Bingley Harrier vowed to dedicate himself to the pursuit of an Ironman world title after retaining his Olympic crown in Rio, but a hip operation has forced him to re-consider his immediate ambitions.

To the surprise of many, the former Bradford Grammar School pupil has opted to move back down in distance to defend his triathlon title at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast next year, where he will form part of a 10-strong England triathlon and para-triathlon squad.

And he has admitted he is now much more likely to target Tokyo in 2020 – especially because the introduction of team relays into the Olympic programme will enable him to double his gold medal haul.

Brownlee said: "If you'd asked me two years ago if I would go to Tokyo, I'd probably have said definitely not, but now I'm feeling a lot more positive about it.

"I have been very clear that I didn't want to make any fixed decisions about my future but I wanted to take a step back after focusing for ten years of my life on the Olympics.

"While I enjoyed going through the process of training for a different sport, I didn't find the racing as interesting as the short-distance stuff – you're on your own, in your own world, and you're not necessarily competing against those around you."

Brownlee, from Bramhope, made an apparently seamless transition to the longer distances, winning on his debut in Gran Canaria and again in Utah, and admitted he still hoped to one day be in a position to compete in his sport's ultimate event.

He added: "The World Ironman Championships in Hawaii is something every triathlete wants to do – I've been a triathlete since the age of eight and I've followed it and known about it all these years.

"I definitely want to do it at some point but whether I have to delay those dreams a little bit longer or not, we'll have to see."

Brownlee will joined by his brother Jonny on the Gold Coast, while the England women's squad is led by Vicky Holland, the individual bronze medallist from Glasgow 2014.