In the sweaty heat of a Tokyo morning, Alex Yee summoned the performance of his young life to win a triathlon silver medal for Britain at these Olympic Games. For a few tantalising minutes it appeared that gold could be in the 23-year-old’s grasp, but he had no answer to a stunning final lap surge from the Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt.
An enthralling race appeared to be in the balance after the 1500m swim, 40km bike and three-quarters of the 10km run. But it was then that Blummenfelt, a burly 27-year-old from Bergen, kicked hard and established a lead he never relinquished.
The Norwegian had time to slow down and perform a Viking roar before crossing the line in 1:45:04. 只是 11 seconds back was Yee, after a performance of immense grit and drive, with New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde in third.
Afterwards Yee punched the air and tried to take it all in. “It’s a bit bizarre really,“ 他说. “I’m just a normal guy from south east London. Dreams really do come true. He was the better man on the day but I was as well prepared as I could be.”
Meanwhile Britain’s Jonny Brownlee, who battled bravely in intense heat and high humidity before finishing fifth, praised his compatriot, 说: “Alex deserves that medal, he works unbelievably hard.”
Earlier there had been drama – and danger – at the 6.30am start as the gun went off just as a huge camera boat steered into the path of half the field. While they remained stuck on the platoon, the other triathletes dived into the water and swam 150m before a speedboat finally carved into their way and got them to stop.
Those who had got an early taste of the water included the favourite Vincent Luis. It didn’t appear to affect the Frenchman as he quickly took the lead on the swim and was out of the water first in 17 分钟 39 sec. Brownlee was eight seconds back in 11th, while Yee was in 32nd, 30 seconds back.
It meant that while Brownlee was able to force himself into the lead group of 11 on the 40km bike course, Yee had to push hard at the front of the second group to close the gap.
The gruelling work paid off. By the fourth lap of the twisting and highly technical course the two groups had become conjoined. Yee, the fastest triathlete on the run, was in a prime position. He was content to watch as the Swiss triathlete Andea Salvisberg kicked clear of the field on the last of eight laps to establish a 16-second lead. He knew he would reel him in.
Yee led for most of the first three of the four laps of the 10km run as the field was whittled down from 11, to eight and then to three at the bell. And Yee, the fastest man in the field, was still there. Nine years ago, Yee watched the Brownlee brothers duelling out at London 2012. Now he would be the one duking it for a medal.
The Briton looked the most comfortable of the three leaders out in front but when Blummenfelt put in his surge, Yee – like everyone else in the field – had no answer.
Not that Yee was too upset. “I am just over the moon,” he said afterwards. “I was already deep in the well and dug that little bit in my soul. It wasn’t enough to catch Kristian Blummenfelt but it was enough to get silver.”