By Steve Downes
LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) – Alistair Brownlee became the first Briton to win a medal in an Olympic triathlon when he took gold with an emphatic front-running display around Hyde Park in central London on Tuesday.
Brownlee, 24, became the 19th British gold medalist of the London Olympics, matching the gold tally won by the team at the Beijing Games four years ago.
His younger brother Jonathan completed another piece of Olympic history when he finished third despite incurring a 15-second penalty for a rule infringement. He ended the race collapsed in a heap and needing lengthy medical treatment.
The Brownlees, split at the finish by former world champion Javier Gomez of Spain, are the first siblings to feature on the Olympic medal podium together in an individual event in more than 50 years.
“I was just so excited to get out and race and obviously I got the result I wanted,” Alistair told reporters before the medal ceremony that was delayed for more than 30 minutes as his brother received treatment for exhaustion.
“We knew he had a penalty early on in the bike and I was just telling Jonny, don’t worry about it, calm down, you can still easily get on the podium with a 15-second penalty.
“I took the first lap of the run out really hard to try and get Jonny as far away from the others as he can and hopefully Gomez. Gomez was having a great race today and so there was not much we could do about that.”
Alistair had built a comfortable lead in the second half of the 10km run, featuring four loops around a park packed with thousands of fans enjoying one of the free events at the Games.
He was roared home and had enough of a margin to drape a Union Flag over his shoulders and walk over the line for a winning time of one hour 46 minutes and 25 seconds, looking back to see where his brother was.
Gomez, who had finished fourth in Beijing four years ago, clocked 1:46:36, with Jonathan a further 20 seconds back.
First out of the water after 17 minutes 36 seconds was Gomez, Spain’s 2008 and 2010 world champion, at the head of a group of five that included both Brownlees, Slovakian Richard Varga and Alessandro Fabian of Italy.
But the dreams of a British brothers’ one-two were dealt a blow as the leaders exited the first transition, and Jonathan was judged to have mounted his bike too soon, incurring a 15-second penalty – triathlon’s equivalent of an F1.
“Penalties in triathlon are a disgrace,” said Alistair. “They are ruining the sport.”
The race was over completely soon after that for Canada’s 2000 Olympic champion Simon Whitfield who crashed his bike in Hyde Park but there were none of the high-speed pile-ups witnessed in Saturday’s rainy women’s race.
The lead group’s advantage had evaporated before they were halfway into the 43km cycle ride, when the 17-strong chasing group bridged the gap.
It also meant the British team’s domestique, Stuart Hayes, was able to do much of the pace-setting hard work on the front of the peloton in a bid to set up the run for the Brownlees.
After an hour’s riding, the 20 leaders returned to the transition area where Gomez was first into his racing shoes, followed by the Brownlee brothers, forming a powerful trio.
They set a furious pace that left the field straggling behind them as if they were Sunday joggers, quickly building a gap of 17 seconds after the first lap around the Serpentine.
With big brother Alistair pushing the pace at the front, the gap between the front three and the chasers was almost half a minute with 5km to run.
The first casualty of this brutal front-running was Brownlee’s younger brother. Then a gap appeared between Brownlee and Gomez.
With the two Frenchmen, David Hauss and Laurent Vidal, working together in fourth and fifth places, the younger Brownlee opted to take his penalty with a lap of the run to go.
He spent anxious seconds looking down the course as the challengers to his bronze medal got closer with every stride.
Yet he still emerged from the penalty box with a 12 second gap and just 2.5km left to run. It proved to be more than enough for him to go on to complete a piece of Olympic history.
He paid for his efforts, however, as the medal ceremony was delayed while he received an IV drip in the medical tent.
With two medals in the Olympic race, the Brownlees’ domination of international triathlon is almost complete.
Even though world champion Alistair missed four months’ racing earlier this year due to an Achilles tendon injury – he had a pool built in the bottom of his garden so that he might train by aqua-jogging – the pair have now won eight of 13 international world series races since the start of 2011.
Now they will own a piece of sporting history, since not since Raimondo D’Inzeo and his brother, Piero, the Italians, won gold and silver in the show-jumping at the 1960 Rome Games, have siblings both won medals in an individual Olympic event that they have contested together.