Classic finals: Homegrown battle of brotherly love

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain poses with his gold medal next to his brother and bronze medalist Jonathan Brownlee of Great Britain during the medal ceremony for the Men's Triathlon on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Hyde Park on August 7, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07: Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain poses with his gold medal next to his brother and bronze medalist Jonathan Brownlee of Great Britain during the medal ceremony for the Men's Triathlon on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Hyde Park on August 7, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible finals you can remember on video. This week, we look at the 2012 men’s triathlon final.

The deets

Men's triathlon race, London 2012 Olympic Games
Hyde Park, London, 7 August 2012

The background

A total of 55 competitors began the London 2012 Olympic triathlon race. Among the favourites were the Beijing 2008 gold medallist Jan Frodeno (German), five-time ITU World Championships winner Javier Gómez (Spain) and two brothers who lived and trained together in Yorkshire in the north of England, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee. A year earlier in the Olympic test event, Alistair (the older of the Team GB siblings) had run out the winner, with Jonny placing third. However, the results of test events had not been a good omen in previous Olympics, with the athlete who triumphed never winning the Olympic title the following year.

The key moment

The pivotal moment in the final – and perhaps the moment that sealed gold for Alastair Brownlee – came about when Jonny incurred a 15 second penalty for mounting his bike too soon during the transition between the swimming and cycling sections of the race. The penalty led to a nerve-wracking situation whereby the triathlete ran the majority of the final 10km knowing that he would have to stop in order to incur the penalty.

But, as Jonny explained to the Guardian newspaper, his brother gave him the encouragement he needed to keep going: "Alistair was brilliant though. There were only 15 seconds a lap on the bike where we could hear each other. He didn't realise I'd incurred a penalty, but when I told him, his first response was: "Calm down. You can still do this."

"All sorts of calculations were going through my mind. OK, so I'm going to lose 15 seconds. What's that in terms of metres? Roughly 90m. OK. And I beat Javier Gomez in Kitzbuhel by over 30 seconds, so yes, Alistair is right, I can do this. I've just to run harder and faster than I've ever done before."

When Jonny finally did stop, he had built enough daylight between himself and the French team of David Hauss and Laurent Vidal to ensure he would still win the bronze medal. As to whether he could have challenged for gold if he hadn't been penalised? Nobody will ever know.

The outcome

After they both made the podium at their home Olympics, the Brownlee brothers became household names in Great Britain. Four years later at the Rio 2016 Games, the brothers went one better than they had in London, with a 1-2 finish to secure gold and silver. Once again it was Alistair who triumphed ahead of his younger sibling Jonny.

But the brotherly love they share for each other was perhaps most evident during the 2016 ITU Triathlon Age Group World Championships in Mexico. 500 metres from the two-hour race's end, Jonny was leading his brother Alistair comfortably, with South Africa's Henri Schoeman in third position. But just as Jonny looked destined for victory, he stumbled to the side of the course, succumbing to the dangerous effects of dehydration. When Alastair saw his brother in such a difficult position, he ran towards him, pulled his arm around his neck and almost carried him to the finish line – losing his own chance to win in the process. The sporting sacrifice he made that day meant Schoeman would end the race as winner, but it proved once again the incredible bond between the talented triathlete brothers from Leeds.

Men’s Triathlon, London 2012
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