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Jonny Brownlee’s long wait for Olympic gold ends as he steps out of his brother’s shadow

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In his last Olympic race, Jonny Brownlee finally ended his wait for gold.

Third in London and second in Rio, he had too often played the role of Alistair’s younger brother.

In Tokyo, he acted every bit British Triathlon’s elder statesman, completing a stunning second leg as Britain won gold in the first ever mixed team relay.

And it acted as a proverbial passing of the baton to Alex Yee, who was the man to cross the finishing line. As a young kid, he had lined the streets of London 2012 to watch the Brownlee brothers compete.

In a nice quirk to Saturday’s race, he had lso been inspired by the man he was racing for gold, Vincent Luis, as much as his countrymen, revealing to the Frenchman he had requested his help in getting started in the sport post-London 2012.

A few days later, a package arrived in the post with French kit from Luis, who only found out the recipient of the post for the first time after a captivating Olympic final.

Luis had pulled an unbelievable shift to catch up with Yee and be level pegging going into the run, raising question marks that Brownlee’s Olympic dream would end with another silver.

Oh Yee of little faith – the young Briton produced a turn of speed in the opening metres to make the two-kilometre run akin to a time trial to gold.

For Brownlee, it was particularly poignant as he completed the clean sweep of medals, bronze, silver and now gold.

“If someone had said at the start of my international career I’d have three Olympic medals and three different colours, I’d have taken that,” he said. “It’s super special. The way we all raced today was amazing. We didn’t make any mistakes. To finally get a gold medal, I’m quite emotional.”

Asked to pick the person he least would have wanted to race against in those final 2km, Brownlee picked Yee. Watching on, he knew it would equate to a seventh gold medal of these Games for Team GB.

Of the gold, Brownlee said: “It’s about time. I keep on trying to get gold medals, Alistair’s won two so far and to go home with one and get towards matching him is super special. It’s the first ever mixed team relay in triathlon so we’ve made history in that. I feel like I’ve been part of a lot of history in my career and that’s just another one. It’s capped off my Olympic career.”

Jess Learmonth had got the British quartet off to the perfect start with a swim, bike and run that had almost seemed beyond her. Worried beforehand she would let down the team as its only non-Olympic medallist, the fact she was taken away in a wheelchair suggested she could have given no more.

Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee, Alex Yee, Jessica Learmonth and Georgia Taylor Brown celebrate gold (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee, Alex Yee, Jessica Learmonth and Georgia Taylor Brown celebrate gold (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Brownlee took over for leg two - pushing the pace on the bike in particular - a tactic which earned praise from his brother, who also revealed Jonny had never touched his Olympic golds for fear it would jinx him.

It gave Georgia Taylor-Brown a 10-second lead, which she doubled for Lee, who looked to have an unassailable lead only for Luis’ comeback.

While Brownlee insisted it was never in doubt – Luis having “burned too many matches”, Lee admitted to panicking a little bit, and downplayed his run saying he had the easy part in bringing it home.

It was a fitting end to Brownlee’s Olympic career, his final word that there were plenty more medals to come from a British team without him or Alistair in its ranks.

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