Alistair Brownlee has continued Great Britain’s winning Rio Olympic form by taking the men’s triathlon title here in Rio today. The multiple world and European champ made his move over brother Jonny with 4km left of the run to cement his position as the greatest Olympic-distance athlete in history.
The fifth Olympic Games triathlon took place in Rio with Alistair Brownlee aiming to become the first athlete in history to defend his Olympic crown. But where tri great Simon Whitfield, Hamish Carter and Jan Frodeno had failed, Alistair made history on the Copacabana after breaking his brother Jonny halfway through the run.
Ali was followed in 31secs later by Jonny, who went one better than at London 2012 to take silver. Henri Schoeman of South Africa was third.
The non-wetsuit sea swim took place in water temperatures of 21C, with the heat outside rising swiftly from an overcast morning to 27C by 11am. The gun went and the fifth Olympic Games triathlon was a go, with the Brownlees, Brit Gordon Benson and unofficial swim domestique Richard Varga taking the right hand side to utilise the right to left currents.
Unusually three distinct swim groups formed, but the plan worked for the Brits and they entered the first buoy in the lead and escaped the first buoy carnage that followed. The pack would string out during the course of the swim, with Varga and Schoeman
Slovakia’s Richard Varga led out the swim followed closely by South Africa’s Henri Schoeman and the Brownlees. Mario Mola was 19sescs down on Varga when he excited, crucially missing the front swim pack.
By lap two of the bike, the Brownlees lead pack of cyclists had increased their lead to 40 seconds over Mario Mola, a minute over Richard Murray. At the halfway stage the lead was 1:13mins, with the two lead chase packs forming.
The Brownlees were pushing the pace on the bike, with plenty of athletes tucking in behind much to the Yorkshire’s boys annoyance (Jonny was clearly heard from the grandstand giving France’s Vincent Luis a piece of his mind). With the chase pack already over a minute in arrears, Mola and Murray would need to pull out huge performances to reach the podium.
A bike crash involving four athletes ended Gordon Benson’s hopes of finishing his debut Olympics, with the bell for the final lap showing little change in the gap from the lead to chase group.
The Brownlees entered T2 with the leaders, alongside Luis, with Schoeman and Aaron Royle not far behind. The brothers had broken free by the first of four run laps, with Schoeman looking strong for third and Luis dropping off the pace. That lead over Schoeman was 13secs by 5km, with the fight coming down to which Brownlee brother would take the title.
That would be decided early on lap three as Ali made his move surprisingly early, ruthlessly leaving Jonny trailing by 15secs by the end of the third of four run laps. Alistair’s relentless pace saw him hit the finish at 1:45:01 (and this having strolled the finishing straight) with Jonny 6secs behind.