Star British triathlete Alistair Brownlee went into London 2012 as hot favourite to take gold in the men’s competition – and the fact that he was competing against his brother Jonathan in the final ensured acres of media coverage. In the event it was the elder Brownlee who prevailed to bring Team GB its first ever medal in the event – and in impressive fashion, considering he was injured for the first half of the year.
After the 1,500m swim in Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake, and the 43km bike road race whose route took in Buckingham Palace, the leading pack of both Brownlees, Javier Gomez of Spain and Frenchmen David Hauss and Laurent Vidal was tightly packed – meaning the battle for medals would come down to the final event. Alistair proved uncatchable, with a time for the 10km run just over 90 seconds slower than Mo Farah’s gold-winning run in the 10,000m in the Olympic Stadium.
The 24-year-old, who has dominated the sport over the last three years with a series of phenomenal performances, was introduced to triathlon as a youngster by a triathlete uncle.
As a junior he was a successful fell (hill) runner and a cross-country champion at county level. After school he studied medicine at university but switched to a sports science course and returned home to Yorkshire to focus on the triathlon. That decision paved the way for his debut Olympic appearance in Beijing in 2008, where he finished 12th, but was the best-placed British competitor.
The following season he triumphed in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship, taking first place at events in Madrid, Washington DC, Kitzbühel and London before winning the Grand Final in Australia. He was the first person ever to win Junior, under-23 and senior ITU world triathlon titles. A stress fracture hampered Brownlee in 2010, but he still took two European titles that year. To date he has won five ITU world titles, as well as back-to-back European golds – and now he is finally an Olympic champion.
The only surprise was that his younger brother Jonathan, 22, didn’t take silver. Despite a gutsy performance to make up time after a 15-second penalty for mounting his bike too early in the first transition, he could only manage bronze, behind Spanish world champion Gomez. But after the race Alistair – who has hinted that he may switch to long-distance running – told reporters: “The race was unbelievable and the crowds were amazing. My ears are still ringing from all that noise. I am massively proud of Jonny.”