Brotherly love helps Brownlees to podium
A concerned big brother was watching on as baby-faced Jonathan Brownlee staggered down the final few metres to seal a bronze medal in the men’s Olympic triathlon on Tuesday.
Big brother was actually gold medallist Alistair who surged clear to victory at the end of the three-sport event that separates men from boys like no other Olympic discipline.
Despite being the dominant forces in the sport over the past two years the siblings, winners of seven of the last 12 ITU World Series races, beat long odds to both make the podium.
While 24-year-old Alistair milked the cheers from thousands of fans lining the Hyde Park course his 22-year-old brother was staggering home in third place after his was race was blown apart by a 15-second penalty for a rule infringement.
Jonathan crossed the line behind Spain’s Javier Gomez before collapsing in a heap and needing medical treatment.
It was an hour before he was steady enough to stand on the podium and he still required a chair when explaining the day’s events to journalists in the mixed zone.
“I felt awful at the end, then I got to the medical tent and I felt worse and worse, I over-heated and collapsed, I don’t know if I passed out,” he said.
“But that’s part of triathlon. It’s a hard sport. Alastair collapsed on this course two years ago now it’s my turn.”
In taking gold and bronze they became the first British brothers to both make the podium at an individual event at the Olympics since tennis players Laurence and Reg Doherty in 1900.
They also underlined their dominance in a sport in which regularly go head to head, although not with the stakes so high.
Considering the short odds on something going wrong in a event comprising a 1500m open water swim, a 43km bike ride and 10km run it was an incredible achievement.
Alistair’s race went so smoothly he could afford to walk over the line draped in a Union Flag as tens of thousands of fans crammed around the Serpentine Lake roared their approval.
Even in his moment of joy, however, the brotherly bond was obvious as the double world champion looked back down the finishing straight to check on Jonathan’s progress.
After being cooled down with ice and wet towels Jonathan described the moment he realised he had been hit with a 15-second penalty for getting on his bike marginally too early in the first transition zone after the swim.
“It’s the first penalty I’ve ever had and I didn’t know I had done anything wrong,” he told reporters, alongside his brother. “At first when I saw the board and it said number 31 I thought ’Alistair’s got a penalty, what an idiot’.
“Then I looked at my arm and I saw 31, the looked at the other arm and it’s 31. Then I thought, oh, I’ve got a penalty. I will have to run even faster now and it might make it a bit more interesting.”
Sticking up for his brother, who has won twice on the World Series this season, Alastair said the penalty was a “disgrace” and said he had tried to come up with a way of helping his brother overcome the penalty.
“Penalties are ruining the sport,” said Alastair, who was beaten over the same course by his brother two years ago when he also ended up in the medical tent.
“They are ruining the sport, they bring judgmental decisions into a sport that should be the first three across the line. But we knew about it.
“I was thinking if I can go off as fast I can maybe I could take Jonny with me and he could run back through the field.
“But two Brits first and third, we can’t complain too much.”
After finishing the bike section in the pack the brothers, along with Gomez, blasted clear at the start of the run.
Jonathan began to feel the pace though and dropped back on the third of the four circuits of Hyde Park, deciding to take his 15-second “Stop-go” penalty then and concentrate on hanging on for the bronze medal.
“Alastair went off really hard in the run and I was actually quite pleased to stop for 15 seconds,” joked Jonathan.
“But it was the longest 15 seconds of my life. Then when I started again I tripped. I thought this isn’t going very well.”
The brothers are the first British triathletes to win Olympic medals in the sport that was introduced in 2000.
“I’m very proud that my brother could get the bronze,” Alistair, said. “It’s not easy to get two brothers on the podium. The odds on something going wrong are short and when there’s two of you it’s even worse.
“We push each other all the time and now we’ve pushed each other all the way to the Olympic podium.”