EXCLUSIVE: Brownlee brothers are geared for triathlon gold in London
22:32 GMT, 16 July 2012
When UK Sport announced their medal targets for the London 2012 Olympic Games, triathlon was in the 'one to two' bracket.
You can make that one or two golds for a start, plus another medal in the men's event. This is a sport that isn't interested in aiming low. Great Britain boast the two current triathlon world champions: Alistair Brownlee and Helen Jenkins.
Brownlee's younger brother Jonny also came second in the 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run in Beijing last October. The British Triathlon Federation have picked their team accordingly.
Win or bust: Alistair Brownlee in London last year
The selectors are only interested in 'medal contenders' and have therefore chosen two 'domestiques' in the six-person squad.
Stuart Hayes, 33, and Lucy Hall, 20, are only there to help one of the Brownlees and Jenkins win gold.
'I think it's fantastic,' says Alistair Brownlee, 24. 'It's a massive step from picking the three best athletes to picking a team that's most likely to win a gold medal.
'It's all about performance and that's a big step for British sport and especially triathlon. It's a very un-British attitude, really. Triathlon needs an Olympic medal to retain funding so that's why they've selected this team.
'Jonny and I will go for the individual medal and the third person is only there to support us. They'll do more of a share of the work on the bike to try and push the pace along, go and chase people if there's a breakaway and help one of us if we get a puncture.
'Jonny and I always work to help each other out until we start running. Then it's just a race.'
Jenkins, 28, is a little more diplomatic than Yorkshire-born Brownlee, who doesn't much care for mincing his words.
Team ethic: Helen Jenkins with the Brownlee brothers make up Team GB's elite squad
Her husband and coach, Marc, bristles at the suggestion it is not a particularly British thing to do; this wonderful disregard for taking part and complete focus on winning.
'It has been said it's almost unfair to win, but it's the nature of sport,' he says. 'You create a race-winning scenario and that's what we're trying to do.'
'I think it's a good thing,' adds Jenkins. 'There are certain race scenarios which benefit me. If it's a fast swim, a hard bike race and there are less people (in contention) on the run, I've got more chance of winning.
'It's a harsh policy if you're the third, fourth or even second-best athlete – and I've been in that position – but you have to look at it as the way it is. 'We've known what our selection policy is for two years. Our future funding for the sport depends on medals.'
Both Jenkins and Alistair Brownlee insist they are comfortable with the 'favourite' tag going into London; a tag loaded with even more pressure owing to Britain's selection policy.
Jenkins and her husband, who competed in the 2004 Olympic triathlon, will prepare for the race in Hyde Park in their 'little bubble' at their home in Bridgend, Wales, where they have converted their garage into a gym.
'It's not to say that everybody should be coached by their husbands,' she says. 'But it's always worked well for us. It's not like Marc's standing over me. It's pretty relaxed.
'It's just life. We don't really know any different. We're pretty good at switching off from it.'
Brownlee, too, sees his family
connections in the sport as a positive. Jonny won two races, in San
Diego and Madrid, when Alistair was out for four months earlier this
year after suffering a tear in one of his achilles tendons, but the
older brother returned to winning ways in Kitzbuhel, Austria, last
Winning feeling: Alistair won gold in Beijing last year
'It's good, most of the time,' says Alistair. 'We push each other on and we train hard together and we can race together and help each other in races, but it can be tough as well. 'When I'm injured and sat there and he's going out training, that's pretty tough.
'I didn't actually watch his races. I think the important thing when you get an injury like that is you take yourself so far away; you don't really give yourself a chance to miss it.'
Alistair's coach, Malcolm Brown, has noted his injury could have been a blessing in disguise as he prepares to race in London, but Brownlee scoffs at the suggestion.
He has not enjoyed spending more time than normal in the gym – 'I hate it' – and the pool, swimming and using an underwater treadmill. He much prefers to be outside, cycling and running.
'Has it helped Not really!' he says, 'I think that's dressing it up, probably. But you never know. Just being given that bit of perspective; being able to take that step back – especially this year – might be beneficial. But I think in a perfect world it wouldn't have happened.'
The pursuit of the 'perfect world', after all, is what British triathlon is all about.
GE is a Worldwide Partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and the Elite Partner of the GE GB Triathlon team – providing support and expertise for the athletes as they prepare to compete at the highest levels. See more at: www.facebook.com/GEtriathlon