Alistair Brownlee, the double Olympic gold medallist in triathlon, wants to leave a lasting legacy in his sport. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: Alistair Brownlee, double Olympic gold medallist, wants to further enhance his sporting legacy while chasing down a rare dual feat in near future.

While first on his agenda will be a third gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games, Brownlee has given his nod to be part of an ambitious feat that will see him join three other endurance athletes in attempting to break the under seven-hour and under-eight marks for an Iron Distance triathlon.

A gold medallist at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games - Brownlee will join half-iron distance world record holder Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway, while three-time Ironman World Championships runner-up Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain and dual Olympic medalist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland will attempt the mark for the women in spring next year.

The iron distance triathlon is arguably the greatest one-day endurance event consisting of a 3.8-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike and 42.195-kilometre run. An Olympic distance triathlon, on the other hand, consists of a 1,500m swim, 40km on the bike and a 10km run.

First on my mind will be a third gold medal in Tokyo. I think sport is so much a part of our lives, wherein we are constantly challenging and pushing the boundaries all the time. The goal is to inspire others, especially the younger generations

- Alistair Brownlee, double Olympic gold medallist

“First on my mind will be a third gold medal in Tokyo. I think sport is so much a part of our lives, wherein we are constantly challenging and pushing the boundaries all the time. The goal is to inspire others, especially the younger generations. This leads to the entire aspect of legacy, and this is what I would want to leave behind through this challenge,” Browlee explained in a chat with Gulf News.

“Of course, there will be a commercial aspect to this attempt, but the focus will always be on the legacy. I am confident that bettering or lowering the time will leave behind a lasting legacy for the generations to follow, while encouraging people to take up to some form of sport,” he added.

To put the challenge into context, the athletes will need to swim at Olympic open water medallists’ pace; cycle at an average speed of 51 kph for 180 kms before running a sub-2 hour and 30 minutes marathon. The attempt is scheduled to take place sometime in Spring 2022 with Brownlee preferring the cooler and more suitable months of either February or March. The specific date and venue of attempt are to be confirmed later.

The Brownlee brothers, Alistair (right) and Jonathon, pose with their gold and silver medals at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon event. Image Credit: Reuters

The idea to target the new feat came about as Brownlee sat around a table after an endurance race in Bahrain discussing the world record times and if they could be beaten. The women thought in the right conditions, it was possible to go under 8 hours. “And I thought I could go sub-seven hours. A mix of bravado and competitive instinct kicked in and before we knew it, we had all signed up to the idea of not just attempting to go faster than anyone in history but breaking the mythical 7 and 8-hour barriers,” Brownlee recounted.

The challenge is being promoted by a campaign entitled ‘Defy The Impossible’ and has been designed to not only make an impact at the elite end of the sport, but also drive change and inspire people at the grassroots level.

“Yes, I very much think this feat is possible,” Brownlee said.

“And that’s the reason why we are attempting to lower the times. For sure, we will need the best conditions to make it happen. We would need everything to be in order starting with the pacemakers, the equipment, the most apt date, time and country along with the best people to support us. There is quite a bit of work to be done, and I am convinced that we can do this,” he insisted.

Breaking the eight-hour barrier in an iron distance triathlon was long been considered impossible till 1996 when German Lothar Leder re-wrote record books with the first sub-8 hours time. With that mental barrier broken, more than 80 sub-8 times have since been recorded, with Jan Frodeno now pushing the record to 7 hours, 35 minutes, 39 seconds – still a long way short of going under the seven-hour mark.

For women the mystical mark was nine hours, and was first broken by Thea Sybesma in 1991. Since then the record has slowly dropped, with four-time world champion Chrissie Wellington’s 8:18:13 in 2011 remaining the standard.

Spearheaded by former World Champion triathlete and now CEO of event organisers Mana Sport and Entertainment Group, Chris McCormack, the challenge will be officially known as the ‘Pho3nix SUB7’ and ‘Pho3nix SUB8’.