For as long as the Brownlee brothers can remember, they have squabbled over table tennis and Monopoly. Now they have a monopoly over global triathlon.
They currently boast the top two spots in the world rankings – older brother Alistair just 55 points clear of Jonny. Victory for either of them in today’s World Triathlon Grand Final would see them win the world title, not to mention the sibling bragging rights. They could also add a British men’s one-two to yesterday’s women’s gold and silver – a double double.
Both are approaching today with their usual understated confidence. Jonny, at 23 two years the junior, said: “I’m pretty confident about it, that I can become world champion, but triathlon is one of those sports where a lot can change. Like you can have a bad swim or a penalty for example. People don’t realise.”
Brownlee Jnr was on the receiving end of one such penalty in the Olympic final – made to stand aside for 15 seconds for an illegal transition.
He argues it would not have made the difference between the bronze he won and a better medal, but it meant he pushed himself to his limit, and duly collapsed just before stepping on to the podium.
In contrast, Alistair stormed to gold. But since then he has undergone emergency appendix surgery and suffered a litany of foot problems, most notably an Achilles injury, which looked set to derail his season. Somehow he has made his way back to the top, and he is as bemused as anyone as to how he did it. “I’m surprised and delighted, as I didn’t think I’d be in a position to win the world title,” he said. “That world title is what I want.”
There is a general perception – shared by the brothers as well – that when push comes to shove, Alistair has the psychological edge. That was overturned in Hamburg earlier this season when Jonny outsprinted his older brother. “Part of it was down to Jonny being better than me that day, but also I was lacking the training [after] the injuries,” said Alistair.
It is telling that after the Olympics Jonny moved out of his brother’s house to his own place nearby. His next target is to step out of Alistair’s shadow in triathlon.
Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee are BT ambassadors. In London’s Hyde Park today they will compete to become 2013 world triathlon champion