Over the last decade the Brownlee brothers have taken the world of triathlon by storm, with outstanding performances in competitions from the ITU World Championships to the Olympics. With so many achievements to choose from, we take a look back at some of their best moments…
1. Heroics at WTS Cozumel
Our top Brownlee moment has to be the emotional scene of Alistair Brownlee supporting his exhausted younger brother across the finishing line at the 2019 World Triathlon Series final in Mexico. Not only was he giving Jonny the best chance of being awarded the world championship title, but also ensuring he could get medical assistance as quickly as possible.
Alistair said post-race: “I have been in that position before, when it happened to me in London a few years ago. I remember being in second place and then coming around and someone telling me I was in 10th. I couldn’t remember all of those people passing me. So I swore that, literally if it happened to anyone I would help them across the line… I just had to do what was right in that situation.”
In typical, understated Yorkshire fashion Alistair, once he’d delivered Jonny safely to the line, also added: “I wish the flippin’ idiot had paced it!”
Coming less than a month after the pair won gold and silver at the Rio Games (see below), the moment made the headlines across the world and catapulted them into household-name territory.
2. Double Olympic Champion
At the Rio 2016 Olympics, Alistair Brownlee made history on the Copacabana by becoming the first athlete in history to defend his Olympic triathlon title. Continuing Great Britain’s winning form, Alistair’s win also marked Team GB’s 20th gold medal of Rio 2016.
The multiple world and European champion made his move over brother Jonny with 4km left of the run to cement his position as the greatest Olympic-distance athlete in history. Alistair’s relentless pace saw him hit the finish in an outstanding time of 1:45:01. Jonny followed 6secs later to go one better than at London 2012 to take silver. Henri Schoeman of South Africa was third.
At the press conference at the Fort Copacabana Alistair said: “When we crossed the line we looked at each other and said ‘We’ve done it’.”
3. Jonny dominates at ITU World Championship
Eighteen days after taking bronze in his first Olympics in London, Jonny rocked up at the ITU World Triathlon Stockholm – the race that clinched him the 2012 world title. Following previous wins at San Diego and Madrid, achieving first place at Stockholm put Jonny in an ideal position to go for the overall series win.
In Stockholm, Jonny was eighth out of the water and had a good transition that saw him make the lead group on the bike. A group of 11 stayed together throughout the 40k and made it to the second transition with a small lead over the chase pack, which contained Olympic 2012 silver medallist, Javier Gomez. Slovakia’s Richard Varga was first out of T2, but Jonny soon passed him and moved into first, holding the lead through to the finish, despite a storming effort by Gomez to catch him, and finishing in 1:34:18.
With such impressive performances under his belt, even slipping into second place in the Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand, didn’t stop Jonny from claiming the overall title. Hence, the year of the London Olympics saw Jonny succeed his brother Alistair as the ITU world champion. “It’s good to keep the title in the family, it’s pretty special,” said Jonny post-Grand Final. “At the start of the year if someone had said year that Alistair would be Olympic champion, I’d be Olympic bronze medalist and I’d be world champion, too, I’d definitely take that.”
4. Alistair triumphs at WTS Leeds
To win the inaugural ITU World Triathlon Series race in Leeds, the brothers’ home city, was a pretty special moment for Alistair. A reported crowd of 100,000 spectators visited Roundhay Park to see the Brownlee brothers race on home soil and they certainly didn’t disappoint. After 1:49hrs of frenetic racing, Alistair achieved first place and Jonny followed him home in second.
After the swim, Slovakia’s Richard Varga led into T1 with the main contenders seconds behind. But Alistair’s speedy transition saw him exit first and fly out of the bike course start. Within minutes he was followed by Jonny, Australia’s Aaron Royle and France’s Aurelien Rapheal. By the end of the 40km bike route the quartet had a 1:07min lead over Javier Gomez and Richard Varga, and this gap only continued to increase. By the end of the first run lap, Ali had broken away from Jonny to create a 20sec gap and surged to victory with a 10km split time of 31:10.
Alistair said: “I can’t quite describe it really. I’ve been lucky to have had a lot of good performances in my time, but you know, wow, today, that was brilliant. And I think by far the best crowd on the World Series circuit, by a long way, not even close.”
5. Jonny thrives at Helvellyn Triathlon at young age
In 2007 both Brownlee brothers conquered the Lake District’s Helvellyn Triathlon, a race that holds a reputation as one of the most challenging triathlons in the UK. The brutal course consists of a 1-mile swim in Ullswater lake, a tough 38-mile cycle and a 9-mile fell run up Helvellyn, England’s third highest peak. With some extremely tough climbs and rocky scrambles, this isn’t one to be undertaken lightly.
Although Jonny was too young to take part in 2007, his father was happy for him to go around with a timing chip as a training run. He managed to complete the race in a brilliant time of 3:45:47, slotting in between the fifth and sixth finishers. Older brother Alistair won it in 3:28:14 and set a new course record, which would stand for four years.
You can find Helvellyn Triathlon race tips here.