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Yee eyes Olympics spot in triathlon rather than switch to athletics

The rising star won his first World Cup triathlon race last month and is the reigning British 10,000 metres champion.

Alex Yee's running potential has been praised by Mo Farah but the 21-year-old is hoping to take a big step towards an Olympic debut in triathlon in Tokyo next summer when he competes in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Yee will make his debut in the World Triathlon Series, the elite level of the sport, and will hope to maintain the form he showed in winning a first World Cup race in Cape Town last month.

His scalps that day included South Africa's Henri Schoeman, the Commonwealth Games champion and Olympic bronze medallist.

"It was really special, and it shows we're doing the right things," Yee told Press Association Sport. "It definitely gives me confidence being able to stand on the start line with some of those great names and come out on top.

"It's all about how I race in Abu Dhabi. I've been given a bit of an opportunity by British Triathlon and I've just got to see how that goes and move forward from there."

Yee's strength is no secret. He is not just a fast runner for triathlon. Last year he shocked more established names by breaking 28 minutes to win the national 10,000 metres title and went on to finish 14th at the European Championships in Berlin.

He said: "It was one of the most surreal moments, just seeing all those people paying to watch a race that you're part of was really special. It was my first major championships in triathlon or running and it really blew me away."

But the experience did not change Yee's mind that he is a triathlete first and foremost and, while that may raise some eyebrows in the athletics world, he is grateful he has not been made to choose.

Asked why he favours triathlon, Yee said: "At the moment it's the challenge of the sports. One of my friends who I listen to quite a lot always says, 'In a few years, when you wake up, what do you think you're going to be doing', and I can't imagine not doing swimming, cycling and running.

"And whether that means I'll be a runner or a triathlete, I think that's the approach I'll always take. That's what makes me happiest."

What makes Yee's story all the more remarkable is that his career might well have ended before it really began.

Racing his first World Cup triathlon in Cagliari in June 2017, the Brockley athlete was forced off the road on his bike and hit a concrete bollard at speed. He broke ribs, vertebrae and a shoulder blade and suffered a punctured lung.

He was arguably lucky to be alive and certainly fortunate to be able to compete again nine months later.

"When I initially woke up I didn't realise the extent of the injuries," said Yee. "I was keen to get back on my bike the next day. I'm really lucky to be back doing that now. It's crazy how fine the margins are. I could have been paralysed. I was really fortunate in an unfortunate situation.

"Sometimes you wake up tired and it's hard to motivate yourself, especially being a student athlete, having so much on, but then you think back to things like that and realise there might have been a position where you couldn't have done it at all.

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"You give yourself a slap on the wrist. I am really grateful to do what I do."

Yee trains with Alistair and Jonny Brownlee in Leeds, which will once again be hosting a round of the world series in June, and, with both brothers struggling for fitness over the past couple of seasons, it appears his arrival on the world stage could not be better timed.

Jonny is certainly a fan, saying: "I think we should be very, very excited about him. He might not be as consistent as we've seen from Alistair, just because of the way he races, but, if it goes the right way, I think he's going to have some very, very good races.

"He's the fastest runner triathlon's ever seen. We should be very thankful he's British."

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Jonny Brownlee pictured in October 2016
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Year of anguish almost made me quit, says Brownlee

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States1011930
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia78520
Great BritainGreat Britain56516
Today's Olympic highlights header

Thursday's key events

· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

· As second-fastest qualifier for the final, Team GB's James Wilby is among the medal contenders in the men's 200m breaststroke (2.44am)
· Alys Thomas takes part in the women's 200m butterfly final, although he faces a difficult task to challenge for the medals (3.28am)
· Caeleb Dressel of the USA has been touted by some as the successor to Michael Phelps, and he has the chance to notch up a fourth Olympic gold in the men's 100m freestyle final (3.37am)

· After Team GB's men narrowly missed out on a medal, the women get their campaign underway against the Russian Olympic Committee (3am) and New Zealand (10.30am)

· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
· Most eyes will be on the women's showdown between the two nations, though, as Netherlands - the world's best team - look to gain revenge on GB for defeat in the 2016 Olympic final (11am)

· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

· With Simone Biles now out of the women's all-around final, the competition has been blown wide open. Team GB twins Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova are among those taking part (11.50am-2.05pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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