Brownlee Brothers

Alistair Brownlee won the triathlon gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  His brother Jonny captured silver.

The sons of a father who was a runner and mother who swam, the Brownlee brothers are to triathlon what the Manning’s are to football.  Natives of West Yorkshire, England –  along the River Calder in north central England — they were introduced to triathlon by an uncle, Simon Hearnshaw, who regularly competed in the sport.  The Brownlees are two of the most dominant triathletes in the world.

Thirty-year-old Alistair is the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist, and is the only Olympic champion to successfully defend his triathlon title.  He is also a two-time world champion, a two-time world team champion, a three-time European champion, and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist.  Jonny is two years younger than Alistair.  He won the 2012 World Championship after finishing second to his brother the prior season.  A two-time World Sprint Triathlon champion, Jonny has claimed Olympic silver and bronze along with World and Commonwealth mixed team relay victories.

The International Triathlon Union [ITU] is the sport’s governing body.  Conducted at venues the world over, the ITU stages races at the standard [Olympic] distances of a 1,500m mass-start open-water swim, 40K draft-legal cycle and 10K run.  Athletes compete head-to-head for points in these races to determine the overall ITU world champion.

In the six years from 2005 to 2010, Alistair Brownlee competed in 31 ITU races, posting 24 top ten finishes.  He claimed 13 gold medals, five silver and two bronze.  Between 2006 and 2010, Jonathan Brownlee completed 22 ITU events.  He earned 14 top tens, including five gold medals, four silver and two bronze.

The Brownlees train 35 hours per week.  They swim five times each week, with each 90-minute session beginning at 7:00 a.m.  The brothers bike daily, often following their swim and cycle with a training run.

Born April 23, 1988, in Newsbury, Alistair Edward Brownlee is the elder of three brothers.  As a youngster, he was a successful cross country runner, finishing second in the Junior National Championships and winning several Yorkshire County titles.  A strong swimmer, Alistair tried triathlon and quickly found success, winning the 2006 World Junior Championship.  At 18, he enrolled at Cambridge to study medicine, but left during his first year.  “Trying to fit 30-plus hours of training around my degree was pretty impossible,” said Brownlee.  “I decided that triathlon was my true passion.”  He transferred to the University of Leeds, where he earned a degree in Sports Science and Physiology in 2010 [he completed a master’s in Finance in 2013].

In June 2008, Alistair Brownlee won the Men’s U23 Triathlon World Championships in Vancouver.  Two months later, he finished 12th at the Beijing Olympics.  Brownlee won all five of the World Championship events he entered in 2009 to claim the ITU world title.  In the process, he became the first triathlete in history to win ITU titles for Junior Men, U23, and Senior Men.  After missing most of the 2010 season with a stress fracture of the femur, Brownlee returned to form and reclaimed the world title in 2011.

The most decorated triathlete in British history represented his homeland by claiming gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  Despite incurring a 15-second penalty, younger brother Jonny finished third to win bronze.  During that same season, Jonny Brownlee captured his only ITU world championship, a title he had narrowly lost to Alistair in 2011.

Born in Newsbury April 30, 1990, Jonathan Callum Brownlee set club swimming records at 10.  He was a British youth champion in both triathlon and duathlon [run, bike, run] in 2006 and again in 2007, then won bronze medals at both the European and World Junior Championships in 2008.  At 19, Brownlee won the Australian Youth Olympic Festival and competed in two ITU world championship events.

In 2010, Johnathan Brownlee, who graduated the University of Leeds with a degree in history, followed in his older brother’s footsteps and won the Under 23 World Championship.  The following year, he took the sprint distance [750m swim, 20K bike, 5K run] world title.  After claiming bronze at the 2012 London Games, Jonny teamed with Alistair to win take first place in the triathlon mixed relay event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.  He finished second at both the 2013 world championships and 2016 Rio Games.

The Brownlee’s were truly brothers in arms at the final event of the 2016 World Triathlon Series.  On a hot and humid day in Cozumel, Mexico, Jonny led comfortably throughout the race.  With 700 meters to go for the world title, he began to show effects of dehydration.  Seeing his brother weaving across the course and on the verge of collapse, Alistair Brownlee put his arm around Jonny and helped him over the finish line.  Jonathan finished in second place and Alistair third, while South African Henri Schoeman overtook them both to win.  The finish cost Jonny Brownlee the 2016 world title.

On this date in 2014, Alistair Brownlee outdueled Mario Mola of Spain to win the ITU World Triathlon Grand Finale in Edmonton by 20 seconds.  Johnathon finished fourth, 38 seconds behind his brother.