Despite the sleet, strikes and severe delays on the underground, our Great Portland Street bar was suitably packed with clients, staff and friends of Engine eager to hear from two of our country’s greatest athletes and two of the nicest brothers in sport. Hosted by Transform’s Bill James, who also serves as Chairman of Triathlon England, the organisation that has supported the brothers since the earliest days of their careers, the conversation covered everything from training for Rio to Terry’s chocolate orange.
Here are a few of our key take-aways:
PROFESSIONAL SPORT NEVER STOPS
With a season that runs from April to October, triathletes never stop training. The brothers talked us through an intense training regime that included extreme temperatures and extreme environments. For Jonny, there’s a comfort in the routine. Wherever they are or whatever they’re working towards, their morning is almost always the same: up early and into the pool. Although training can be monotonous, Alistair emphasised that in an efficiency sport like triathlon, consistency is vital.
Of course a bit of healthy competition between the brothers helps to keep them motivated, but ultimately they view each other as support and inspiration rather than rivals. Despite never specifically focusing their training on mental tools for enduring the 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run that make up the Olympic triathlon, Alistair explained that when you’ve been training for a sport since the age of six, you inevitably test and develop a set of strategies for mental fortitude. When it comes to race day; ‘we both know what we should be doing, and what we should be thinking’ he explained.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR SUCCESSES, AND YOUR FAILURES
The brothers’ share the opinion that taking accountability for your training and your race is an important part of a winning mentality. They value their trainers as mentors, but would never hold them responsible for their failure, or conversely their success. ‘I never wanted to be a robot’ explained Jonny ‘I always want to be engaged. If I mess up it’s my fault, if I win, it’s my victory.’
Similarly, they are eternally grateful to their parents for inspiring a love of being active and outdoors in them from a young age—and for ‘years of taxi driving to races and training’’—but they don’t attribute their success to any kind of parental pressure. They weren’t pushed into the sport, but their parents’ emphasis on the importance of an active lifestyle was of paramount importance in shaping their attitude towards racing.
THE BEST PARTNERSHIPS ARE BASED ON SHARED VALUES
When the conversation turned to sponsorship and brands, both of the brothers agreed that opportunities which aligned with their values were most likely to be a success on both sides. Whether it’s an outdoor brand, sports gear or a brand that promotes healthy eating, if a brand’s purpose aligns with the brothers’ own goal of empowering and inspiring ordinary people to get outside, get active and look after their bodies, there’s the opportunity for a partnership that can make a positive difference to society.
‘I can’t imagine a day when I’m not active’ explained Alistair ‘so if I’m working with a brand that can help me spread the message about how great that is to people, I can’t see why I wouldn’t want to do it.’
NOTHING BEATS THE HOME CROWD
Perhaps the most touching take-away from the event for the crowd was the overwhelming gratitude and pride the boys feel for the support their country has given them.
Both agree that the now legendary race in Cozumel, although technically a loss for Jonny, has significantly increased their popularity and had an undoubtedly positive impact on their careers. Jonny recalled waking up the following morning and receiving so many tweets and texts that his phone immediately crashed — ‘when I saw the tweets from the likes of J K Rowling, I just thought…what have I done!’ he explained.
But even before their viral show of brotherly solidarity catapulted them to next level fame, it was the support of the home crowd that helped them over the finish line. According to Jonny, who was lucky that his first Olympic race aligned with London 2012, ‘nothing beats the support of the home crowd.’