In an incredible act of sportsmanship and brotherly love, two-time Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee gave up a shot of winning the World Triathlon Series Grand Final to help his heat-exhausted younger brother across the finish line.
Two-time Olympic medalist Jonny Brownlee appeared to be in serious trouble while leading in the final kilometer, after 1 hour, 45 minutes of racing in Cozumel. Legs wobbled. Arms flailed. Finally, Jonny grimaced and his eyes veered left. He slowed to a stop and had to be held up by somebody on the side of the run course.
Behind him, Alistair and South African Henri Schoeman had been battling for second place. They came up to pass a stopped Jonny for the lead.
That’s when Alistair chose his brother over a possible victory, stopping and wrapping Jonny’s right arm around his own neck. Alistair could tell just how dire the situation was.
“It’s as close to death as you’re going to be in sport,” he said later of Jonny.
Alistair helped Jonny the rest of the way, about 80 seconds of jogging together. Alistair pushed Jonny across the finish line in front of himself for second place, as Jonny was in contention for the season-long world title and Alistair was not. They were 18 seconds behind Schoeman.
Spain’s Mario Mola later finished fifth, by four seconds, to clinch the world title by a mere four points over Jonny (4,819 to 4,815). The world title is decided by a points accumulation from results in the winter, spring and summer.
At the finish, Jonny fell to the blue carpet after Alistair let go, was eventually wheeled off in a chair and taken to a hospital for precaution, but he would be OK.
Alistair said he would have stopped for anybody in that situation and not just his brother. He recalled his own battle with exhaustion at the end of a World Triathlon Series race in London in 2010 (video here).
Had Jonny kept his lead Sunday and finished first, he would have topped Mola for the world title.
“I wish the flippin’ idiot just paced it right and crossed the finish line first,” Alistair said. “He could have jogged that last 2K and won the race, but who am I to talk?”Follow @nzaccardi