Two-time Olympic champion and a favorite for next month’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship Alistair Brownlee announced today he will undergo surgery Saturday for a chronic hip problem and will forego competition for the rest of the year.
In an Instagram post, the 29-year-old British star wrote: “Tomorrow is a big day. After years of struggling with a chronic hip problem, I go under the knife. It has been a tough decision but suffering from an acute flare I am left with little option. Unfortunately it will take me away from competing for the rest of the year but I hope it will enable me to continue doing what I love for many years to come. In the mean time I'll get to enjoy a bit of Yorkshire relaxation which is a rare treat.”
Late last year in an interview with the BBC, Brownlee announced he would step away from ITU racing for two years to shift focus to Ironman and Ironman 70.3 racing. “I'm going to pursue things away from Olympic triathlon," said Brownlee. “It's important I have a different focus.”
Brownlee succeeded with a win at the Ironman 70.3 North American Championships, winning St. George over top 70.3 rival Lionel Sanders. Last month, Alistair Brownlee proved he still had his Olympic distance chops with a home town victory at WTS Leeds ahead of his brother Jonny in second place.
In addition to missing out on the Ironman 70.3 World championship in Chattanooga, Brownlee will also withdraw from the September edition of the Super League Triathlon to be held near his home town in Jersey, United Kingdom.
His long term plan to compete at the Ironman World championship in Kona is also on hold.
Brownlee is no stranger to interruptions to his career via injury. In August 2015, he had surgery for a persistent ankle injury which temporarily put his bid to qualify for the 2016 Olympics on hold. “My left ankle has been giving me bother since 2013, with a range of different niggles," he told BBC Sport. “Getting it sorted gives me the best chance of being 100% for next season."
The 2015 injury forced Brownlee to miss WTS races in Abu Dhabi, Auckland and Gold Coast and flared up after the Rio test event where he finished 10th, causing him to pull out of the WTS Stockholm. Brownlee recovered just in time, winning WTS Leeds in June of 2016 and WTS Stockholm in July 2016 before posting a gold medal performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics in August.
Long time Canadian coach and ITU commentator Barrie Shepley praised the decision in a Facebook post:
“Smart but tough decision by Alistair Brownlee to forego the 70.3 World Champs in Sept and have hip surgery tomorrow. The sport needs more Ali vs. Javier Gomez and Ali vs. Lionel Sanders battles in the next decade.
“With the 2020 Olympics with 2 medals at stake (Team and Individual) as well as possible long distance (70.3 or Kona), Ali is making a good decision in this first of a four year cycle. Hoping for a full recovery so whoever wins Kona or the Olympics in the future will know that they raced EVERYONE who was the BEST of their era.”