Olympic Triathlon: Brownlees put brotherly love on hold
Britain’s gold and bronze medallists in 2012 will be the men to beat in Copacabana
The Brownlee brothers, Alistair (left) and Jonathan. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Let the sibling rivalry Games begin.
Few Olympic events fell more royally into place in London four years than the men’s triathlon, Alistair Brownlee fairly decimating the field in the swim, bike and run around Hyde Park, while younger brother and Great British team-mate Jonathan held on for third.
Four years on and they’re back looking to do likewise – or indeed go better: the setting of Copacabana may be infinitely more attractive and also more demanding but both brothers actually reckon it will suit them even better.
Up until a few weeks ago, it seemed possible the same three men who stood on the podium in London would do likewise in Rio.
That was until Javier Gómez Noya from Spain, who won silver in 2012, withdrew with a shoulder injury, and with that the race in Rio suddenly looks like a straight shootout between the Brownlee brothers.
While the Brownlees’ run into Rio hasn’t been quite as long and consistent as their long campaign into London, there is nothing to suggest that this matters.
Alistair is the reigning Olympic and Commonwealth champion, Jonathan also claiming medals in both those races; and, in their lead in to Rio, they’ve combined for a 1-2 podium punch at consecutive Olympic-distance World Triathlon Series events in Leeds and Stockholm this year.
The Rio course also suits the Brownlees perfectly. As Jonny recently told a paper in Yorkshire, it’s even more suited to the pair than London due to the demanding nature of all three legs, which simply means that the “the strongest all-round triathlete should win on the day”.
Asked about his goals for Rio, Jonathan (26) said: “For me, the motivation is to achieve Olympic gold.”
Create more history
When Alistair, now 28, was asked, his response was: “For me, it is to win again.”
With that, the Brownlees are primed to create more history: Alistair could become the first triathlete to successfully defend the Olympic title.
They are joined here by fellow Yorkshire man and Olympic debutant Gordon Benson, who qualified as the winner of the inaugural European Games triathlon in Baku last year.
There is some strong and worthy Irish interest too in Bryan Keane, the now 36-year-old from Cork who has spent the best part of a lifetime trying to qualify for the Olympics, and now gets his chance to gets to line up with the top 55 male triathletes in the world around the vast open-air venue that is Fort Copacabana.
In many ways, Keane is the essence of the true Olympian. His event is suitably labelled Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run) – because in the triathlon, at that distance, the Olympics is the absolute pinnacle.
For as long as Keane can remember, the Olympics have been in his consciousness, and from the age of 12, growing up in Cork, they started to become his life ambition: first in swimming, then in running, and later in cycling – before realising his real talent was combining all three in the sport that is triathlon.
That he’s now in Rio having fulfilled his ambition is testament to the athlete’s willpower, as he so easily might not have made it at all, given the fact he also believed he would be in London four years ago, before a training accident killed off that dream.
In September 2010, already well positioned to qualify for London, he was riding his time-trial bike near his home in Cork, at about 40kph, when he was hit side-on by a car travelling at a similar speed. He shattered his right kneecap and ended up taking a nine-month break in order to learn how to run all over again.
That decision to keep going for Rio was reinforced in 2013, at Ishigaki in Japan, when Keane finished second to become the first Irish man to make the podium at a World Cup event.
Keane may not make the podium in Rio, but he’s in esteemed company, in easily the most spectacular setting for a triathlon in its short Olympic history.