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Alistair and Jonny Brownlee put on quite an Olympic show
After joyous Jessica and magnificent Mo and a velodrome dripping with British gold, London 2012 gives you the Fabulous Brownlee Boys.
There have been some remarkable feats over the past fortnight but surely Hyde Park on a cool August afternoon in front of around 200,000 spectators played witness to one of the most extraordinary shows of them all.
Alistair Brownlee took gold in the men’s triathlon in a time of 1hr 46min 25sec, the first time Britain has won an Olympic medal in the event and the first time the favourite had managed to win the Olympic triathlon.
Then 31 seconds later, just like London buses, another Brownlee came along, younger brother Jonny, to grab bronze after clawing back a 15-second penalty which looked to have wrecked his medal chances.
In between, inconveniently for the brothers, was Spanish rival Javier Gomez.
As the brothers embraced wearily on the finish line enveloped in a Union flag, however, you had to marvel at another remarkable story.
What a race, especially coming on the back of the women’s triathlon which ended in a photo finish. London 2012 truly has been blessed with drama and performances rich in talent and bursting with desire.
And if Jonny delayed the medal ceremony by an hour or so because he required medical attention, so exhausting was his effort, then doesn’t that just sum up the British spirit at these Games?
As Alistair said: “You don’t really have too much time to enjoy it. I’d run probably as hard as I’ve ever run to win that race.
“I was very proud and happy but my overwhelming feeling was just to get across the line and get it over and done with.”
Yet while the fortitude of the Brownlees deserves utmost respect, it is the talent and focus of Alistair at which you have to marvel most.
The 24-year-old Bingley Harrier had a training pool built in his garden in Bramhope at the beginning of the year so he could use water therapy to help him recover from a serious Achilles injury.
In the time he was recovering, Jonny – two years his junior – clocked up 14 podium finishes in major meetings; laid down the gauntlet, you might say. Rarely have siblings dominated a sport in such fashion.
Sibling rivalry, of course, does not always work that well in sport. The Williams sisters in tennis are a prime example. So many of their final battles have been compromised by the fact that while they both want to win, they do not want their sister to lose.
There was an element of that with the Brownlees, who had posed the idea of crossing the line together in a dead heat for gold before these Games.
A terse warning was issued by the International Triathlon Union to the effect that such an eventuality could end in disqualification. That is how it should be.
Gold medals have to be seen to be competitively won and Jonny inadvertently ensured that would be the case when he incurred his time penalty for jumping on his bike too early in the transition from the swim to the cycling.
The penalty had to be taken on the ten-kilometre run segment, which essentially saw Jonny stopping for 15 seconds on the ‘naughty step’.
Jonny will never know quite how that penalty affected him psychologically when he believed all was going so well. He had emerged from the 1500m swim in the Serpentine fourth of the 55 competitors, with Alistair sixth.
The 43km bike ride itself could not have gone any better, the Brownlees in the leading pack with their ‘domestique’, Stuart Hayes, taking on some of the leg work to protect them in the peloton as the riders spun seven times around the course which took in such famous landmarks as Wellington Arch, Constitution Hill, Buckingham Palace and Birdcage Walk.
So to the run, the discipline which so often sorts out the great from the good and which saw the Brownlees and Gomez form a three-man breakaway.
Jonny felt the pace first. Gomez dug in but Alistair’s iron will and wiry frame was not to be denied and he edged away on the third lap of four to experience the luxury of crossing the finish line at walking pace with a Union flag draped around his shoulders.
They are charging a pretty penny to see Zippos Christmas Circus in Hyde Park later this year. Here’s betting it will have nothing on the Fabulous Brownlee Boys.
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