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Performances of the decade: Alistair Brownlee wins back-to-back Olympic golds

After making its Olympic debut in 2000, there have been a lot of firsts for the sport of triathlon on the world’s biggest stage. Switzerland’s Brigitte McMahon became the first-ever Olympic champion in Sydney, and then a day later Canadian Simon Whitfield was crowned the inaugural men’s winner. Twelve years later, in London, 24-year-old Alistair Brownlee became the first to claim Olympic gold on home soil. The West Yorkshire native followed that up with another victory in Rio, making him the first and only athlete to go back-to-back.

Alistair Brownlee at the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship press conference. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

London 2012

Alistair Brownlee wins 2012 Olympic gold. Photo: Delly Carr / ITU

As the 2011 ITU world champion, Brownlee came into his second Olympic appearance as one of the favourites to challenge for gold in front of his home fans.

He and his brother Jonathan were apart of a group of five that led out of the water. Despite their best efforts, they were eventually swallowed up by the main chase pack on the bike, and they entered T2 in a large group of 22.

Out on the run, the Brownlee brothers set a fast pace early, and only Spain’s Javier Gomez, the 2008 and 2010 world champ, could go with them. Jonathan was dropped heading into the final lap, and then, down the stretch, Alistair pulled away to win Olympic gold in a time of 1:46:25, 11 seconds clear of Gomez.

Rio 2016

Alistair Brownlee at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
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In the lead-up to Rio, Gomez had asserted himself as the favourite for gold. The Spaniard was crowned ITU world champion in three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015 after tearing up the WTS, and also won the Olympic Test Event one year out from the Games with Brownlee finishing back in 10th.

However, Gomez was forced to pull out less than a month before the race after a bike crash.

Brownlee took full advantage of his absence in Rio, as he, his brother and eight others formed a strong lead pack on the swim and bike that left several top contenders out of the running for a medal. Out on the run, France’s Vincent Luis was the only athlete that could go with the Brownlees early, but he was dropped after the first kilometre.

Brownlee pulled away from his younger brother on the back half of the 10 km run and sailed to win a second consecutive Olympic gold medal in a time of 1:45:01, with Jonathan six seconds back for silver.

And, while Alistair, 31, has recently turned his focus to long course racing, he has stated that he intends to make a push for Olympic qualification in 2020 to shoot for an unprecedented third straight title.