In a showdown with his brother Jonny, Alistair Brownlee has been crowned Commonwealth champion, adding the title to a mantelpiece that already includes an Olympic gold medal, two ITU World Championships, European Championship titles, World U23 Champs and multiple ITU World Relay medals. Jonny would finish after losing contact with 8km of the run to go while the South African Richard Murray would take bronze.
Two hours after Jodie Stimpson claimed an historic Commonwealth Games victory, the overwhelming English favourites, Ali and Jonny, were on the starting pontoon hoping to make it a clean sweep of gold tri medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
With their Iberian ITU rivals Javier Gomez, Mario Mola and Joao Pereira all absent from competing, the pre-race focus was on the Brownlees’ South African rival, Richard Murray, a formidable runner and former ITU World Duathlon champ with a chink in his armour: his swim. The aim for the Brownlees would be to implement Operation Drop Murray during the opening discipline and the tactic paid off with the South African 27secs back after the first lap and 44secs by the end of the 1.5km venture in Strathclyde Park’s waters.
It would be Murray’s compatriot Henri Schoeman who was first out of the water in the non-wetsuit swim, with Jonny and Alistair in hot pursuit, yet the biggest cheers in the bumper Strathclyde crowd were reserved for Jersey’s long-distance specialist Dan Hawksworth and home favourite Marc Austin, the 2013 U23 world silver medallist. Further back a Kenyan athlete, Vincent Onyango, would be seen being pulled out of the water after gamely doing breaststroke, highlighting the differences in the depth of this Commonwealth field compared to the ITU circuit.
Brownlee enters the history books
Onto the bike and reigning Olympic champion Alistair, Jonny and Austin were clear at the front, amassing a 45secs advantage by lap two of the five-lap 40km bike leg and 1mins by lap three. Could Austin stay with the Brownlees? The chasing group featured Schoeman and Australia’s Aaron Royle and Ryan Baillie. 10secs further back was Murray, twice victor over Jonny Brownlee this year, left with plenty to do to make any headway in the race.
With the temperature reaching 28C, the top two podium positions were in danger of being settled 55mins into the event. Austin was soon clinging on to the Brownlees, with every sinew of his body shown straining to keep the pace. Eventually he would break, swallowed by the chasing group that featured Murray and was led into T2 by Hawksworth.
The Brownlees’ lead at T2 would be a minute, surely too much for the chasers. There were now two battles: one for gold, the other for bronze. Murray would soon be out on his own yet the deficit would remain. At 1:26hrs of the race/2km of the run and surprisingly early in the run, Alistair would make the decisive burst, instantly putting a 13secs gap between himself and his younger brother.
That lead would stay for the remainder of the race, with the victory containing a finishing chute procession with Ali carrying the English and Yorkshires flags and high-fiving with the crowd down the blue carpet. His overall time was irrelevant, for here Alistair became the first Englishman to win a Commonwealth Games tri medal and joined Simon Whitfield as the only athlete to own both Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medals, his position as the most decorated Olympic-distance of all time now confirmed.
Jonny would come home second, evidently wilting in the heat and being taken to the medical tent. Murray crossed the line in third.
We’ll have full reaction from the imminent press conference soon.