Brothers tend to do most things together growing up, especially if they’re born close to one another – but for Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee that has taken on a whole new meaning as they’ve won Olympic Games medals together.
The iconic image of the two though is not the famous gold and bronze double they achieved on home soil in London six years ago, or even the gold and silver – Jonny upgraded – four years later in Rio.
No, it’s the sight of worryingly exhausted younger sibling Jonny staggering incoherently towards the finish line of the ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Cozumel 17 months ago.
The 27-year-old was seemingly strolling to the title in Mexico but became disorientated just a few hundred yards from the finish line of the third and final leg run.
South Africa’s Henri Schoeman and Alistair, 29, were vying for second place. In memorable scenes, Alistair stopped to assist his younger brother, practically dragging him to the line while Schoeman raced home for victory. Alistair, the 2009 and 2011 ITU World Triathlon Series champion, even flung Jonny over the line first to ensure he finished second.
Both brothers were penciled in to be on the starting line for the WTS 2018 season opener in Abu Dhabi this weekend – but Alistair pulled out on Tuesday with a calf strain, which he doesn’t want to damage ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Australia, in April.
Brownlee junior revealed he’s happy to be back in the UAE capital after a two-year absence, but admitted it will feel like a part of him is missing with big brother absent.
“I raced here in 2015 so it’s been a few years, it’s nice to be back,” Brownlee, three times a WTS runner-up (2011, 2013 and 2016) said at the race launch in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
“I’ll miss him (Alistair) quite a lot because we like to race together in relay and go hard on the swimming and the bike, but I’ve done lots of races without him. He’s had lots of injuries over the years and so have I but there will feel like there’s something missing.”
The younger Brownlee is also busy preparing for the Commonwealth Games, getting under way on the Gold Coast on April 4. It’s an event that holds as much significance to him as the Olympics; he is the defending triathlon silver medalist, having unsurprisingly finished behind Alistair in Glasgow four years ago.
The pair were also part of the gold medal-winning mixed relay team alongside Vicky Holland, who’s also in Abu Dhabi this weekend, and Jodie Stimpson, runner-up here a year ago.
“A win here would set me up perfectly for the world series but my last few months have been really tough so it’s kind of a marker in the sand for where my form is and confidence for the next four or five weeks ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which is the most important thing for me,” added the Yorkshireman, who is looking forward to riding and running on the iconic Formula One track at Yas Marina Circuit for the first time.
“One of the best things about the world series is you can race different courses. Hilly courses, city courses and running on the Formula One track will be really special and especially as a sports fan.
“It’s a really good course from a technical point of view for racing, it makes it more interesting. I like to think I’m quite a good driver but I think I’d be pretty scared in a car on the track, but I’d give it a good go.”
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