Triumph in triathlon but tears on the track


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The Independent Online

There was only one moment when Alistair Brownlee did not appear in absolute control of proceedings. It came as he lay sprawled on the bright blue surface that paves the final 100m of the triathlon, gasping for breath and cast a glance back down the home straight.

Gold was already assured but Alistair wanted his brother Jonny on the podium with him. They were separated only by the Spaniard Javier Gomez. Jonny crossed the line and stumbled into his elder brother's arms; gold and bronze for the Brownlees, for Yorkshire and for Great Britain and probably in that order.

If for Alistair it had been a performance of utter command to justify his favourite's tag, for Jonny, two years younger, it was a more trying day after he was handed a 15-second penalty for leaping too soon – by a matter of inches – on to his bike in the first transition after the swim, and his medal chances were put at grave risk.

But the 22-year-old used every ounce of energy in his body to hold on for bronze before collapsing briefly behind the grandstand. "I collapsed. It's part of the sport, it's a tough, tough business," said Jonny.

Behind the simple facade of a 1,500m swim, a 43km cycle and 10km run, triathlon at this elite level is a race of layered intricacies. The three Britons – Stuart Hayes, who finished 37th, performed an admirable service as a domestique – worked as a unit and Team Brownlee had Slovakia's Richard Varga, who spent the last two weeks training alongside the Brownlees in Yorkshire, on side, too.

Varga is a strong swimmer and led the 55-strong field out, taking just 16.56 minutes to complete the loop around the Serpentine. The Brownlees, Gomez and Alessandro Fabian were the only ones to stay with him.

Hayes then took control of the cycling leg as planned before the Brownlees and the dogged Gomez quickly went clear on the run.

Alistair said: "I decided to go out as hard as I could on the run and hope Jonny could stay with me to give him the best chance of overcoming his penalty, but Javier came too." He completed the 10km in 29min 7sec, a time that is only a second slower than Chris Thompson, Britain's No 2 in the 10,000m, posted in the heats in the Olympic Stadium.

Come the finish, which Brownlee crossed wrapped in a Union flag and at walking pace as he began to celebrate, the gap to Gomez was 11 seconds with Jonny 20 seconds behind to become the first British brothers to share a podium in an individual event for 112 years.