7 Aug 2012

Brownlee brothers: ‘We will compete at anything’

Alistair Brownlee wins triathlon gold as his brother Jonny takes bronze – winning Team GB’s first ever triathlon medals. The brothers tell Channel 4 News about their ‘competitive streak’.


Alistair completed a confident swim and cycle before establishing a commanding lead in the run to beat Spaniard Javier Gomez into silver position. His brother Jonny came in bronze after incurring a 15-second penalty for an illegal change-over.

Brownlee completed the race in one hour, 46 minutes and 25 seconds. Gomez crossed the line 11 seconds later and Jonny finished another 20 seconds behind Gomez.

Alistair Brownlee walked over the final finish line. “It wasn’t so much even about celebrating at that point,” he told Channel 4 News. “I wanted to finish as quick as I could. But I was tired, I wanted to stop!”

His lead was such that he could afford to walk over the line, carrying the British flag over his head, to claim victory. It is the first ever medals, let alone gold medal, for Team GB in triathlon since the sport’s Olympic debut in 2000.

Jonny Brownlee said enduring his penalty was difficult. “That 15 seconds when you’re stood there with the countdown clock seems a long long time,” he told Channel 4 News.

His brother said they had to keep check on their “naturally competitive” streak during training. “We literally will compete at anything – Monopoly, badminton, things around the house,” he said. “But we’ve learned that to train together, we can’t always compete.”

The race

Coming out of the swim the Brownlees were in good shape, finishing in fourth and sixth. In first place was Javier Varga who completed the swim in 16 minutes and 56 seconds (see distances, below).

At the start of the cycling the Brownlees formed part of a team of five cyclists, which included Varga, Italy’s Alessendro Fabian and Spain’s Javier Gomez, that broke away from the rest of the athletes.

Stuart Hayes, the third GB competitor who was playing the role of the Brownlees’ “protector”, was further back – but later caught up along with a number of other riders. Hayes’ role in the race was to “protect” the Brownlees – preventing bursts of speed from other riders and supporting the Brownlees when they make a move.

Halfway through the cycling it was announced that Jonny Brownlee had incurred a 15 second penalty for mounting his bike to quickly in the change-over from swimming. Under triathlon rules this meant Jonny would have to stop at a penalty point for 15 seconds at some point in the race, or else face disqualification.

Alistair and Jonny Brownlee led the pack at the end of the seven-lap cycling course – one hour and twenty minutes into the race. Coming out of the cycling change-over, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee took the front two spots, with Jonny yet to serve his penalty, followed by Gomez.

At the end of the second lap of four there was a 27-second gap between Jonny in third place and fourth position, meaning he could take his penalty and remain in bronze position. Alistair remained in first, just ahead of Gomez.

At the end of the third lap Jonny took his 15-second penalty. Coming out of the penalty area he was still ahead of Frenchman David Hauss in third by thirteen seconds.

In the final lap Alistair extended his lead over Gomez, with the Spaniard seemingly unable to respond.

Triathlon at London 2012

The race consists of a one-lap 1,500m swim in the Serpentine, in London’s Hyde Park, a 43km seven-lap bike ride around the park up to Buckingham Palace and back, and a four-lap 10km run around the Serpentine. There are no heats.

The transitions between each discipline are part of the race and crucial seconds can be lost in this area.

Alistair Brownlee and his brother Jonny are set to become household names after living up to expectations in the triathlon, writes Channel 4 News producer Rebecca Horsbrugh.

The sport made its debut at the 2000 Games in Sydney, and over the last 10 years or so it has grown massively in popularity, not just for watching but taking part. It’s a gruelling event as the athletes need to excel in swimming, cycling and running.

Two-time and current world champion Alistair is the elder of the two and has only recently returned from an Achilles tendon injury sustained in February. At one stage it looked like the 24-year-old’s London Olympic dream was over. He marked his comeback in style, though, by winning the World Series event in Kitzbuhel, Austria, at the end of June, and appears back to full fitness.

Sibling rivalry

Alistair competed in Beijing four years ago but failed to medal there, finishing 12th. This time, however, he was favourite for gold, having won 12 out of 15 world series races since 2009. If he achieves that feat, he would be the first Briton to win a triathlon medal.

If younger sibling Jonny had taken silver behind him, they would have been the first brothers to take the top two positions at the same event at the Games. The 22-year-old did well during Alistair’s absence earlier this year, taking world series events in both San Diego and Madrid. However his brother’s return to form means the world number two is set to finish in the shadow of the number one.

Javier Gomez of Spain was likely to be the Brownlee’s main rival, but, crucially, both brothers had a faster run than their rivals, which gave them an advantage over the final leg. It is an unpredictable sport however, as no favourite has ever won gold.

The pair are Yorkshire born and bred, and do most of their training there – eschewing more exotic training camps in places such as Stellenbosch in South Africa or Sydney’s Gold Coast.