May 21 (Reuters) - British triathlete Jonny Brownlee has had a preview of how Japan will play host at the Tokyo Olympics and he has faith the Games can go ahead safely while admitting it will be a very different experience.
With just over nine weeks until the Games, anxiety remains prevalent over what competitors can expect in Tokyo, with much of Japan remaining under emergency curbs amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections.
Yet Brownlee, who got a sneak peak of what is to come when he competed in a World Triathlon race in Yokohama last week, feels less apprehensive.
“I came away from Japan thinking the Olympics is much more likely to happen, I saw that you really can be insulated in a bubble,” Brownlee told Reuters in an interview.
“I did not come within 10 metres of the general public. I realise it is more difficult the bigger the event gets, but I am more confident it can be done in a safe manner.”
The race in Yokohama was used as a test event for the Olympics and organisers said it went ahead without a glitch.
Having won bronze in London in 2012, followed by silver in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Brownlee is going for gold this summer, and is the only British male triathlete already sure to be part of the team for Tokyo.
Even his double gold medal winning brother Alistair has not yet secured a spot.
The Yokohama race did not go to plan for Jonny Brownlee, with the effects of coming straight from high altitude training in America to hotel quarantine in Japan taking their toll.
While he came 23rd, he said the experience was invaluable.
“Initially you get frustrated queuing for the lift for 10 minutes before getting on your bus to the course, but I’ll know for next time and accept these kind of things,” Brownlee said.
“Arriving is a very nerve-racking experience, as one wrong document and you feel like you can be sent home. There is no check-in as normal, it is straight to your hotel room.
“We were allowed to train, but in a sports hall as all athletes train together. You are completely sheltered from the general public. “I completely understand how difficult the situation is and I now know to expect all these little things.”
Having seen what the Games could be like, Brownlee is aware of what will be lost in the overall feel.
“The actual race day will not be that different,” Brownlee said. “You still get your swim, bike and run done. But, the whole Olympic experience will be gone.
“There will be no interaction with other teams, once the race is done, by the sounds of things, you will be flying home straight away, rather than watching the rest of the Olympics.
“It is incredibly difficult times, but it will be such a shame for athletes who are in their first Olympics. For someone like me, in my final Games, I have been there, done that.”
While some overseas training camps have been curtailed due to travel difficulties, the 31-year-old has tailored his surroundings ahead of further pre-Games races to ensure he is ready for this new-look summer showpiece, whether alongside his brother or not.
“I was upset with my performance in Yokohama,” Brownlee said. “But the best thing I can do is get back on that start line. I am hoping to race in Sardinia next week and then in my home town of Leeds on Sunday, June 6.
“Tokyo is going to be really hot, but there are ways to train for that at home. I have turned my conservatory into a heat chamber. I have a treadmill and a turbo trainer (for cycling) in there. I have a great setup.
“I have had some of my best races when Alistair has not been there. When he is there I am looking at him to push the race, but it can also help having him there as he does a lot of the aggression for me.
“I need a couple of good races for my confidence and my head, so I can get that feel for being at the front of the field again and then I’ll be totally ready.” (Reporting by Peter Hall Editing by Toby Davis)