Memorable moment … Great Britain’s Alastair Brownlee wins the gold medal, with his brother Jonathan Brownlee (far right).LONDON: Those outside the event just thought it was the Brits being cocky after their rush of gold in recent days, to suggest English brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee could quinella the men’s triathlon on Tuesday. They didn’t of course … they could ‘only’ manage first and third.
In one of those special stories of the London Olympics, older brother Alistair took the gold, while Jonathan had to be – and was – content with bronze. Spaniard Javier Gomez spoiled the British party by splitting the pair and taking the silver. It’s the first time a host nation has had a winner in the triathlon.
In raucous scenes at Hyde Park, thousands of Brits took advantage of the non-ticketed event and roared their support for the brothers. Hopes of that one-two finish was dashed after 20-year-old Jonathan was hit with a 15 second penalty for infringing in the bike-to-run transition. He served the penalty at the end of the third of four laps, but by that time not only had the medallists been determined, but barring a major incident, all three knew what colour they would be receiving.
By the end of the race, 22-year-old Alistair – who slowed to almost a walk to soak up the crowd wearing a Union Jack he had collected from a fan – had 11s to spare over Gomez, with a further 20s back to Jonathan. Considering that margin between silver and bronze, it could have been an interesting dash for the runner-up prize had there been no penalty for Jonathan, and perhaps that dream of one-two for Britain may not have been as wild as some thought.
Australia’s best finisher was Courtney Atkinson who was 18th, 2min.54s behind the winner. Australia’s other competitors Brad Kahlefeldt was 32nd (3min.58s behind) while Brendan Sexton was 35th (4min.11s back).
Unfortunately it continues a lack of medals for the Australian men in the event. While Australia’s women have won five medals in four Olympic triathlons staged – one gold, two silver and two bronze – no Australian man has ever collected a medal. Greg Bennett came closest when he was fourth behind New Zealander Hamish Carter in Beijing in 2008.
The Brownlee brothers were perfectly placed from the start, and came out of the water in the lead group of six swimmers.
Atkinson was first out of the Australian trio in 21st position followed by Kahlefeldt in 33rd and Sexton struggling back in 47th of the 56 competitors.On the bike the lead group of five athletes attempted a breakaway, but they were caught on the third lap of the cycle by the chasing pack, a group which included Atkinson.
History has shown the Brownlee brothers are as tough as teak, and on the sixth of seven laps, Alastair decided to attempted a solo breakaway. But with such a large leading group containing 22 riders, he was never really going to be able to sustain the lead, and while it provided excitement for the locals, it was short-lived.
Out of the bike-run transition, the Brownlee boys were two and three, behind Frenchman Vincent Luis. Atkinson was well-placed in eighth, with Kahlefeldt out of contention in 32nd, and Sexton 35th.Then Brits then made their move, and along with Gomez, they broke away from the pack, and soon opened up a 20s advantage, with Atkinson falling back to 46s adrift at the first turn.
But the drama was soon to unfold when Jonathan was issued with a 15 second time penalty for a transition infringement.
On the third lap of four, Alistair surged. Gomez was able to hold on and as they headed onto the final lap, the margin was just three seconds. But Jonathan couldn’t go with the pair, and suddenly it was a race in two for the gold. The younger Brownlee took his time penalty at the end of the third lap, but was able to maintain his third spot when he re-entered the race.
Again Alistair surged, and this time he was able to shake the Spaniard, not totally, but the 10 second lead he soon had, made it clear to the thousands’ of screaming Brits, that another gold was about to be banked.
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