Olympic triathlon champions Jonny Brownlee and Alex Yee are putting their faith in organisers of this month’s Games Test Event in Paris to ensure the Seine is safe for swimming.

The world’s best triathletes are set to take to the water in the French capital on August 17 and 18 for a preview of next year’s Olympics.

Parisian authorities have ploughed huge sums of money into cleaning up the Seine in time for the Games but last weekend’s Open Water Swimming World Cup was cancelled because of poor water quality following heavy rainfall.

The spotlight has intensified, meanwhile, after more than 50 people reported falling ill following last month’s World Triathlon Championship Series event in Sunderland.

World Triathlon said in a statement after the cancellation of the swimming world cup that it would monitor water quality carefully ahead of its event but expected conditions to be safe.

Yee, who won individual silver and relay gold for Britain in Tokyo in 2021, told the PA news agency: “We have 100 per cent faith in the organisers of the event.

“If they put the health and safety of the athletes first, then we give them our 100 per cent trust. If they say it’s safe to swim, then we’ll swim. If they don’t say it’s safe, then we’ll deal with the consequences.

“I think also the fact that they’re even making the attempt to clean up the Seine and leave a legacy behind is an amazing thing and shows they have the right intentions. That’s all we can really ask for.”


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If the water is not deemed to be safe, the race will be shifted to a duathlon format, with the swim replaced by a second running leg.

Brownlee, one of the most experienced competitors in the sport, echoed Yee, saying: “I’ve swum in the Seine before. All we can do as athletes is prepare for a triathlon and then put our faith in the organisers to ensure that it is a safe environment.”

Sunderland was hosting a world series event for the first time, taking over the British round from Leeds, and the headlines generated were certainly not what local authorities or British Triathlon would have wanted.

The governing body said tests taken in the swim area ahead of the race were within acceptable guidelines but a nearby test showing high levels of E. coli bacteria was highlighted by Australian Jake Birtwhistle, who was among those that fell ill.

He argued the swim should have been cancelled, while another triathlete to suffer was Britain’s Olivia Mathias.

She shrugged it off, saying: “I’m fine now. It was just 24 hours. These things happen with racing. We put our bodies through quite a lot and we’re bound to get ill at some point. I’ll just move on from it.”

Both Brownlee and Yee said they had never experienced illness after swimming in British waters but levels of pollution in rivers and along the shoreline have prompted nationwide criticism and alarm.

Brownlee, who missed the Sunderland race to focus on Paris, said: “It’s a shame that’s what came out of it because the course and the event looked great.


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“On the whole we put on great events in the UK. One of the challenges of organising outside events is that sometimes it’s out of your control. There are risks and challenges of swimming in open water.

“We want to keep our planet as clean as we possibly can and having clean water is one of the fundamental things. I might be wrong but I genuinely believe the vast majority of the places we can swim are clean and safe.”

Brownlee is eyeing a fourth Olympic appearance having won individual bronze and silver in London and Rio before claiming his first gold medal as part of the mixed relay team in Tokyo.

The 33-year-old had intended for that to be his Olympic swansong but changed his mind and set his sights on Paris.

Whether he actually races in the French capital depends on how he performs during the rest of 2023 and into 2024, and he said: “I only want to go to Paris if I can be competitive in the individual and the mixed team relay.

“I’ve been to three Olympic Games so I don’t want to go and just get the kit, make up the numbers. We’ll see hopefully over the next couple of months but maybe into next year whether that’s genuinely going to be the case.”

Yee has built on his success in Tokyo with four world series victories and double Commonwealth gold over the past two years and would tick the selection box for next summer by finishing on the podium in Paris next week.

“It’s really exciting that there’s that opportunity there but, for me, the biggest goal of going to this race is to learn as much as I can about next year and about the course,” said the 25-year-old.

Alistair Brownlee beat brother Jonny to the gold medal in the men’s triathlon at the Commonwealth Games, on this day in 2014.

The Olympic gold medallist had time to grab England and Yorkshire flags and give his brother a clap before walking across the finish line at at Strathclyde Country Park.

England had never won a medal in the sport at the Commonwealths before but took home four in one day after Jodie Stimpson produced a superb performance to take gold in the women’s race, with Vicky Holland winning a surprise bronze.

The men’s race was not nearly as competitive because of the incredible dominance of Yorkshire’s Brownlee brothers.

They led virtually from start to finish but it was older brother Alistair who again had the edge to add the Commonwealth title to his Olympic and world crowns.

“I’m fortunate I’ve won the world title, I’ve won the Olympic title and to complete the set with the Commonwealth title as well, that’s the most important thing for me,” he said.

“They’re the big three things in Olympic-distance triathlon so it’s perfect, it’s far more than I ever could have dreamed of.”

Jonny, who won Olympic bronze in 2012, finished 11 seconds adrift while South Africa’s Richard Murray won bronze.

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