Rio, Mexico, Harewood – Brownlee brothers spread spirit of triathlon

Brownlee Tri at Harewood House 
with Alistair and Jonny Brownlee
Brownlee Tri at Harewood House with Alistair and Jonny Brownlee
0
Have your say

The image of Leeds brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee embracing across the triathlon finish line on the Copacabana promenade was one of the most touching moments of the Rio Olympic Games.

But the moment has since been superseded by the brotherly companionship between the pair which merged despair and sportsmanship at the final World Series event in Mexico last month.

Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee (left) and brother Jonny embrace after winning Gold and Silver in the Men's Triathlon at Fort Copacabana on the thirteenth day of the Rio Olympic Games, Brazil. (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).

Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee (left) and brother Jonny embrace after winning Gold and Silver in the Men's Triathlon at Fort Copacabana on the thirteenth day of the Rio Olympic Games, Brazil. (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).

The Brownlees were already household names to many for their exploits in London four years previous but in the space of six weeks, a heartfelt response to their tale has sky-rocketed their fame.

So much so, Alistair is now leading the betting to become the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2016 – a tribute which would befit his dominance of triathlon over the last six years.

What could swing it further in his favour, is his commitment – alongside younger brother Jonny – to grow their sport to the masses.

Last weekend, the fourth annual Brownlee Tri took place at Harewood House with 1,500 people donning their wetsuits, bikes and running shoes to compete around the very grounds the brothers have trained throughout their life.

Out of the starters, almost 500 were first time multi-eventers and half were from Yorkshire.

The brothers were heavily involved throughout the staging of the event with course design and venue choice all suiting their wishes.

“It’s become a festival of triathlon,” said Jonny.

“It’s nice to see people enjoying triathlon and it’s important for us to put something on, especially in our home county with the support we have had.

“Triathlon is an important part of our life and so has Yorkshire.

“That’s why we have wanted to do it so much.”

The brothers have never shirked an opportunity to show their commitment to the White Rose.

Rarely are the brothers photographed winning a race without a blue Yorkshire flag proudly wrapped over their shoulder.

Indeed, as Alistair cruised to the finish line in Brazil, he grasped a White Rose flag in his right hand alongside one for the Union.

In turn, Yorkshire support lined the streets of Rio for the brothers and it didn’t go unnoticed.

“We have had incredible support from Yorkshire,” added Jonny.

“Since starting triathlon, the White Rose flags have followed us whereever we have competed.

“In Rio there were Yorkshire flags all over the place.

“We are really thankful. We are obviously very proud of being from Yorkshire. Whenever we get the chance to talk, we will talk about Yorkshire.”

The Brownlee Tri expanded south in 2015 and more than 2,000 athletes took part, including fellow Olympic hero Dame Kelly Holmes.

The event was reverted to a duathlon due to insufficient water levels and a second event was scrapped in favour of retaining focus towards Harewood House.

Similar events are popping up throughout the county and beyond on a weekly basis and monthly participation in the sport rose 38 per cent from 2014 to 2015, according to Sport England statistics.

A further surge is expected following the Rio Games and Alistair’s heartwarming show of sportsmanship in Mexico.

Alistair said: “Triathlon isn’t a mainstream sport by any imagination and the Olympics is its chance to explode out of that.

“Triathlon has definitely increased over the last few years. Whether that has been through our success, I’m not sure, but hopefully it has had an impact.”

The Rio Games may well be remembered for Usain Bolt, Simona Biles or Michael Phelps. But in Yorkshire, the clasp of two brothers flat out with joy and weariness will take some topping.

“That’s what will stay with me forever,” added Jonny. “That image. We had done what we wanted to do. We had achieved a dream.”

Lizzie Deignan won the world title in 2015 (Picture: Chris Etchells)

Deignan up off the operating table for world bid