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Alex Yee never felt like the boy that would be triathlon king.
Take 2015, when he was lapped out of a British Triathlon trial race. Or 2017, when he broke ribs and his lung collapsed after a crash in Cagliari.
But he always knew he’d work hard enough to get to where he is now, a stone-cold Olympic gold medal hope and heir to the Brownlee estate – the top of the podium.
He tweeted four years ago: “Note to my future self: be patient and embrace the processes. Do your best in what you love and maybe one day you’ll be the greatest.”
Yee has followed his own advice to the letter. He might not be a Brownlee by birth but he shares racing DNA with the brothers who have defined triathlon for a decade.
The southeast Londoner is one of a legion of sportspeople who started small, barely visible as a stump in a forest pack of nine-year-olds racing duathlon at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit.
In the broiling heat of Tokyo he will stand tall and invoke terror in the global field if he emerges from the second transition, off the bike and onto the run, in a prominent position.
This is a man whose 10,000m personal best on the track is a mere second slower than the time Mo Farah ran to fail to qualify for the Olympics in June.
He’s capable of a sub-14 minute Parkrun – think about that, weekend warriors.
Yee knows he’s far from the finished article as a triathlete, with a turny, technical 40km Tokyo bike ride a stern litmus test of his progress in that discipline.
The key to conquering any fear of the swim or the bike is a mindset geared towards lifelong learning.
“If I come out of the race and learn something, I’ve got to see it as a win. If I do that then eventually, I’ll feel like a more complete athlete.”
And in British Triathlon Performance Director Mike Cavendish – who is what they call a “thought leader” in the UK Sport system – he has a supportive boss.
“For Alex, this is all about just laying down the sort of performance that he can,” said Cavendish.
“If that ends up in a podium, then great. If not, then he’ll just take all the learning he can from this and experience and we’re absolutely convinced that his time will come.”
Yee broke out with a maiden World Championship Series victory in Leeds, profiting from a race that came together and stayed together on the swim and the bike leg.
Should the same happen again, he will likely be in a burn-up with Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and American Morgan Pearson, as was the case in Yokohama in May.
Vincent Luis was unbeatable in 2020 and shared many a battle with Alistair Brownlee, thrust forward as favourite to take gold in his third Olympic appearance.
There’s even a newly released documentary on the Frenchman called: “Invincible”.
You can’t imagine a similar feature film made about Yee. He’s proven you can fall and get back up again.
“In Tokyo everything is going to be the same – the same athletes, same course, even the officials will be familiar,” he said in a recent interview.
“Those are the hugely important things I’m trying to remember. It’s a big race, but it’s just another race.”