Best of 2011: Jonathan Brownlee sprint king in Lausanne

Best of 2011: Jonathan Brownlee sprint king in Lausanne

By Merryn Sherwood on 14/12/11 at 11:36 pm

With an older brother like Alistair Brownlee, it’s no surprise that people were predicting big things for Jonathan Brownlee.

He was certainly living up to them, a podium spot in the Junior Men’s world title race in 2008, an Under23 World Championship and Elite Sprint title in 2010. But in 2011, the younger of the Yorkshire-based pair didn’t just show he had potential, he actually bettered his brother. The first time in Sydney didn’t really count, after Alistair slipped on a rain-slicked road and limped over the line, but the second time certainly did.

Age: 21
ITU Elite Sprint World Championships: 2 (2010, 2011)
Dextro Energy Triathlon Series wins: 1 (3 Silver, 2 Bronze)
Where he calls home: Yorkshire, England
You can follow Jonny on Twitter, @jonny_brownlee

In Lausanne, Jonathan said before that he needed to run 14 minutes 30 seconds in order to win. He ran the five kilometre leg in 14 minutes 24 seconds, and he won. It was his second consecutive ITU Elite Sprint Triathlon World Championship and the first time he has beaten Alistair in an ITU race. In the final two kilometres it was clear the top place on the podium belonged to either Jonathan or Javier Gomez. Jonathan said afterwards he did find it strange without Alistair there, but that didn’t stop him.

“I overtook Javier pretty quickly, which again was something completely different because normally Alistair is there, so instead of me just kind of following Alistair and he takes you past people, well it was like ‘this is up to me now’,” Jonathan said in Beijing after the season.

“I’ve never been in a sprint finish before so I thought with about 300m to go, to just go for it.”

That win in Lausanne meant that he and Alistair went into the final race in Beijing ranked one and two in the world. They duly went on to finish that way in the overall standings, and since then both Brownlees have been in demand at home. Both have been splashed across newspapers, TV interviews, a Blade versus Bike new ad that pits Jonathan against Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius and even shot a barely clothed spread for a future issue of GQ magazine.

But the focus is changing slightly, while it used to be mostly squarely on Alistair - and deservedly so considering his incredible win record in the Dextro Energy Triathlon Series - there are more questions both posed and asked on fourms and in media round the world. Could Jonathan be better? When Alistair was asked about Jonathan’s improving form recently, he said, “Jonny has the age advantage but it’s slowing down for him now. Jonny has had three fantastic years where he has been completely injury-free. Since 2008 I’ve not had a winter without an injury. So if I get a good winter I’ll be all right. I might just stay that one step ahead of him.”

One step ahead is certainly where Alistair has been so far in his career. It was evident in Madrid, where Alistair waited for Jonathan to catch up so they could embrace and celebrate their first series podium together before Alistair crossed the line first. Yet in a question posed by a journalist to them recently, it might not happen again. While Alistair said he liked the idea of crossing together at next year’s Olympics if they were comfortably ahead, Jonathan said otherwise.

“Imagine winning Olympic gold at home? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance so I’ll definitely try and outsprint Alistair,” he said.

So while it’s likely that they will start the London 2012 Olympic Games triathlon just the way they like it, with Alistair as the favourite and Jonathan the underdog, no-one who has watched Jonathan Brownlee’s 2011 season could be surprised if he does manage to be the Brownlee brother on top of the podium on August 7 next year.