Brothers Alistair and Jonny Brownlee win Olympic praise after gold and bronze triathlon medals
British Triathlon Olympic performance director Malcolm Brown hailed “tough as teak” Alistair Brownlee as he lived up to his billing to win the gold medal in Hyde Park.
The 24-year-old Bingley Harrier went into the race as the reigning world champion and a huge favourite, having not lost an Olympic-distance race for 16 months.
He was challenged hard by Spain’s two-time world champion Javier Gomez but pulled away on the latter stages of the run to win Britain’s first-ever Olympic medal in triathlon.
To complete a brilliant day for the Brownlee family, Alistair’s younger brother Jonny won bronze – despite having to serve a penalty for mounting his bike too quickly.
Brown, who is also the brothers’ personal coach at their base in the village of Bramhope, said: “It’s what British Triathlon wanted, what Alistair and his family and all the people who have supported him wanted and all the people who came here to watch.
“It was a fantastic effort because Gomez was sensational and as tough as he’s been for many years. Alistair knew he’d been in a race.
“Alistair couldn’t run in January, February, March, April because of injury but now he’s outrun the best in the world. Alistair is as tough as teak and he showed it.”
Everything went smoothly for the Brownlees until the early stages of the bike section of the race when Jonny learned he had picked up a penalty, the first of his career.
By the time the 22-year-old served his 15 seconds on the third lap of the ten-kilometre run, he had already been dropped by his brother and Gomez. But he was far enough ahead of the fourth-placed athlete to ensure he would still get on the podium.
Brown said of the performance of Jonny, who was making his Olympic debut: “It was fantastic not only in terms of effort but intelligence.
“Penalties are not something he’s got experience of but he had to make decisions and he clearly made the right decision to take it later rather than earlier.
“That’s what the Brownlees are – they can make judgment calls and they’re great racers.”
Jonny had an unscheduled trip to the medical tent after the race, having collapsed with exhaustion – as Alistair did in the World Championship Series race in Hyde Park two years ago – delaying the medal ceremony for an hour.
As a no-nonsense Yorkshireman, Alistair gave his brother just a cursory pat on the back when he finally emerged and Brown said with a smile: “Alistair’s not the most sympathetic older brother that I’ve ever met.
“He’s probably relieved it’s not him that’s unwell on this occasion and probably wondering why he’s taking all the limelight now while Alistair’s won the race.”
Watching from the stands were nervous parents Keith and Cathy Brownlee, along with their third son Edward.
Keith said: “We got here at 7am. We were very anxious, very nervous, and couldn’t wait for it to be over, to be honest.
“It seemed to be very much like other races. We know what their tactics are and it panned out like it normally does. But there’s always that degree of anxiety that something might go wrong.”
The only concern was Jonny’s penalty and Keith added: “It was slight disbelief because he hasn’t ever had a penalty in over 100 races, so I was quite surprised as he’s the organised one.”
Cathy, who like her husband is a doctor, went to the medical tent with Jonny at the end and she admitted there was a sense of disbelief at her sons’ achievements.
She said: “You don’t think those boys running through that line can be your sons.
“I had to touch Jonathan to check he was real – and to check he was okay at the end. They’ve done really well and we are very proud of them.”