Alex Yee declared himself “just a normal boy from south-east London” after a stunning performance saw him grab triathlon silver on his Olympic bow.
The 23-year-old from Lewisham was in contention for gold throughout Monday morning’s race at the Odaiba Marine Park before being out-kicked late on by Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt.
“It hasn’t sunk in quite yet, it doesn’t feel quite real that it’s me,” he said. “I still just feel like a normal boy from south-east London and I hope I can just serve as an inspiration to many people that this is possible and I’m not anything special. I just really enjoy sport and I’m really lucky that it’s me!”
The youngster’s performance was made all the more impressive by his involvement in a farcical false start, which saw the klaxon sound while a media boat was still blocking half the field’s entrance to the water.
Yee was among those who dived in and swam150m before being recalled by frantic officials on jet skis.
“If I had a different result I’d have said it was unfair but it’s fine now!,” he said. “I was confused when the boat was halfway across and they started us but when the gun goes, the gun goes and you’ve just got to go and it is what it is.
“I didn’t swim my best but I didn’t have a dreadful swim. Maybe it was a good warm-up, you never know.”
As a junior athlete, Yee had split his time between triathlon and athletics and as recently as 2018 he won the senior national 10,000m title on the track.
Having now turned his full attention to triathlon, his potential has already delivered Olympic silver and he will surely be among the contenders for gold again in Paris in three years’ time.
“I still feel like I’m a child of the sport, I’m going into every race trying to learn things,” he added. “This year, the way the races have gone, they seem to be going in my favour but in a few years the way triathlon goes it might not be the case.
“If I can carry on improving my swim then I can be a bit higher up and be in the race every time and that’s the goal for me, just to become the complete athlete rather than be winning everything, and fame and money, I just want to be the best athlete I can be.”