The British wait is over… Alistair Brownlee is Olympic triathlon champion. In the process, the 24-year-old from Leeds has secured Britain’s first ever triathlon medal since the sport was accepted into the Olympics at Sydney 2000. His victory also takes GB’s overall gold medal tally for the London Games to 19, now level with Beijing 2008.
After exiting T2, Alistair – the pre-race favourite and current World Champion – dominated the 10 run leg to clock an astounding 29:07 run split to end Javier Gomez’s quest of his first Olympic gold. The Spaniard would come in second while Jonny Brownlee, Ali’s younger sibling, came home to take bronze despite a 15sec penalty after mounting his bike too early after T1.
CROWDS 10 DEEP
In front of a packed Central London, with crowds 10 deep lining the Mall and watching on giant screens in Hyde Park, the fourth ever men’s Olympic triathlon event began at 11.30am with a 1.5km wetsuit swim in the Serpentine.
The Brownlees followed their training partner, Slovakia’s Richard Varga, out of the water and quickly established a five man breakaway with Gomez and Italy’s Alessandro Fabian.
The gap wasn’t enough, however, and by the end of the 43km bike leg that took in the Mall and seven laps of Hyde Park, the leading pack contained just over 20 riders, including the dangerous Russian trio of Brykhankov, Polyansky and Vasiliev, Swiss Sven Riederer, 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno and the Brownlees’ domestique, Stuart Hayes. (Simon Whitfield, the four time Olympian and winner at Sydney 2000 was missing, however, after a nasty crash exiting T1).
PENALTY FOR JONNY
During the bike leg, Jonny had been notified that he had to serve a 15sec penalty for mounting his bike too early after T1. The 22-year-old Sprint World Champion knew he had to serve the penalty at the start of one of the four 2.5km laps, and chose to do it at the end of the third/start of the fourth.
By that stage the medal contenders were down to three after Alistair had opened the run leg at a high intensity and dropped everyone bar Gomez and Jonny. The younger Brownlee was beginning to drop off the staggering pace at the end of lap three, which saw the race for gold come down to Ali and Gomez, both double World Champions and the two previous winners of the Hyde Park ITU World Series event.
THE WAIT IS OVER
But it was to be Alistair’s day as he started to drop Gomez on the southern side of the Serpentine with 2km to go. Gomez desperately clung on to keep the gap to a handful of seconds but Alistair’s continued pace had extended the lead to nearly 20secs by the home straight, enough time for the older Brownlee to celebrate in front of a rapturous grandstand, with his overall split being 1:46:25, 11secs in front of Gomez. Jonny would come home in 1:46:56 and was taken straight to the medical tent for a check-up (he’d return for the medal ceremony). Stuart Hayes would come home in 37th.
After a painful wait since 2000 for British triathlon, Alistair, who made his name with a breakthrough performance at Beijing 2008, has scored the nation’s first triathlon medal, something that fellow great Simon Lessing never achieved.
“Alistair’s as tough as teak and he showed it today,” Malcolm Brown, Olympic performance manager said post-race. On his penalty, Jonny said, “The first thing I thought was “What an idiot, getting a penalty.” Then I realised it was me!”
We have our 220 team at the finishline for further quotes and reaction from this historic day for British triathlon.
1. Alistair Brownlee 1:46:25 (GB)
2. Javier Gomez 1:46:36 (ESP)
3. Jonny Brownlee 1:46:56 (GB)
4. David Hauss 1:47:14 (FRA)
5. Laurent Vidal 1:47:21 (FRA)