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Alistair Brownlee makes history as first triathlete to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals


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London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee has made history as the first triathlete to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in a race that he dominated from the start.

The 28-year-old from Great Britain and his younger brother Jonathan were favourites heading into today’s men’s race, but the two demolished the field from the start and took gold and silver respectively. South Africa’s Henri Schoeman was the biggest surprise of the day, earning the bronze medal. Many had their eye on the Spanish men to challenge the Brownlees to the finish line, but Schoeman hung with the Brownlees from the start.

How it played out

The ITU’s top swimmer, Slovakia’s Richard Varga, led the swim from the start but never got the lead he wanted to as Schoeman and other athletes hung onto him the entire 1,500-m course. Though everyone expected the Brownlees to eventually make their way to lead early in the bike, Alistair Brownlee impressed crowds when he came out of the water fourth overall with Jonathan close behind. From there, the powerful British duo left no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was their race to lose.

A lead pack of 10 men stayed together from start to finish on the bike course. Jonathan Brownlee stayed out in front for much of the course, setting a blistering fast pace that proved too much for the chase group to keep up with. Increasing their lead over the course of the eight laps, the Brownlees, Australia’s Aaron Royle, Slovakia’s Varga and South Africa’s Schoeman were seen taking turns leading the group.

Though many had their eye on South Africa’s Richard Murray and Spain’s Mario Mola as potential medallists, it was clear from early in the bike that it wasn’t their day. Though Murray and Mola lead the sizeable chase pack of around 20 men, they were never able to close the gap on the leaders.

A crash towards the back of a chase pack caused a handful of athletes including Barbados’ Jason Wilson and Canada’s Andrew Yorke to go down and ultimately crushed their chances at a solid overall finish. Though Wilson and a few others were forced to DNF, Yorke showed tremendous determination and got back on his bike to finish the race.

Tyler Mislawchuk consistently worked his way from 22nd to 12th on the bike, coming into T2 in 16th place.

The men dismounted their bikes with the Brownlees still in the lead, but many wondered what the run would look like after the effort put in on the bike (commentators announced that the men averaged 42.8 km/hour by lap seven). It was France’s Vincent Luis (fourth at last year’s test event) who immediately stuck with the Brownlees, and the three formed a sizeable lead over the rest of the bike’s lead pack heading out onto the run.

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The Brownlees wasted no time dropping Luis with just a kilometre under their belt on the run. Schoeman eventually overtook Luis in third position but didn’t have the legs to keep up with the Brownlees. Towards the second half of the 10-km run, Alistair dropped his brother and it was clear history would be repeating itself as the Brit charged to the finish line looking strong despite the heat. He crossed the finish line in 1:45:01 and made sure to wait for his brother at the finish line. Schoeman retained his position to finish third overall with a historic bronze medal for South Africa. Remarkably, Murray worked his way up to fourth and Portugal’s Joao Pereira took fifth. Belgium’s Van Riel, who was one of those 10 men in the lead group on the bike, finished sixth. Luis was seventh, Mola was eighth, Royle was ninth and his Australian teammate Ryan Bailie pulled off a 10th place.

For Canada, Tyler Mislawchuk showed his consistency throughout the 2016 season will continue. He earned an impressive 15th place in his Olympic debut as the youngest man in the field. The crash that took down Andrew Yorke cost him the finish he was hoping for, but he crossed the finish line nonetheless in 42nd. This was Yorke’s first Olympics as well.

The women race at 10 AM EST on Saturday.