Alistair Brownlee dominated the 2016 Rio Olympics, earning a record-setting 2nd straight gold medal in a time of 1:45:01 - which breaks his Olympic record set in London by 1:24.
Underlining his dominance, Alistair Brownlee’s time topped Javier Gomez’s winning time at the 2015 Rio Olympic Qualifying test event by 3:25.
Alistair broke away from younger brother Jonny halfway through the run and had a half minute lead coming to the finish chute where he took his time to bask in the applause of the spectators. At the finish, Alistair had a 7 seconds lead on his brother and 42 seconds on surprise bronze medalist Henri Schoeman of South Africa.
Schoeman had the race of his life to earn his South Africa’s first Olympic medal – an auspicious result as Schoeman had never previously made a World Triathlon Series podium.
Fellow South African Richard Murray missed the front pack on the bike, started the run 1:18 down on the leaders. Whereupon he uncorked the fastest run of the day – 30:34 - to advance to 4th place, 7 seconds behind his bronze medal-winning countryman.
Joao Pereira of Portugal closed with a 2nd-best 30:38 run to finish 5th, 2 seconds behind Murray.
After the race, Alistair Brownlee summed up his elation: “Every day of this year has been so hard,” said Brownlee, who recovered from a September ankle surgery operation to regain his best form three months before the Olympics. “Every day I’ve woken up in pain. We knew that first two laps of the bike would be crucial. We said ‘Commit, commit, commit,’ and boy did we do that.”
Jonathan Brownlee lost once again to his brother, but could take pride that he improved from Olympic bronze in 2012 to silver in 2016. “At the start of the race I felt really good,” Jonathan told Olympic media. “My training has gone really well, probably a little bit better than Alistair. During the race I felt really good, I had a good swim start, a good swim and then on the bike I felt great. I might have put in a little too much work at times during the bike, but it got to me and Alistair was a little bit stronger than me. It was a hard race.”
Joe Maloy of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey led the U.S. team with a 23rd place finish in 1:48:30. U.S. teammate Ben Kanute raced in the lead pack on the swim and bike before falling back to 29th in 1:48:59.
“You can’t ever quit,” Maloy told USA Triathlon media. “You have to keep fighting and keep persevering, That’s what triathlon is about and in a broader sense that’s what the Olympic Games are about.”
Kanute, at age 23, was encouraged by his first Olympic performance. ““It took me until halfway through the bike to even feel like I could catch my breath,” Kanute said. “That first lap was all out, and even into the second lap, there was no time to rest. There were a lot of good cyclists behind us who were all trying to work to catch us. Our group of 10 was able to hold on and keep strong the whole way.”
Richard Varga (SVK) led the swim in 17:18 followed closely by Igor Polyanskiy (RUS) Alessandro Fabian (ITA) Dmitry Polyanskiy (RUS), Henri Schoeman (RSA), Alistair and Jonny Brownlee (GBR). Aaron Royle (AUS), Vincent Luis (FRA) and Ben Kanute (USA) close behind.
Significantly, a lead group of 10 broke away from dangerous runners Mario Mola (ESP) (+19s), Joao Pereira (BRA) (+45s), Fernando Alarza (ESP) +47s), and Richard Murray (RSA) (+1:02).
A front pack of 10 maintained a steady gap of about a minute throughout the 38.4 km bike leg. They included Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, Ben Kanute (USA), Vincent Luis (FRA), Aaron Royle (AUS) Richard Varga (SVK) Alessandro Fabian (ITA), Andrea Salvisberg (AUT), Henri Schoeman (RSA), and Marten Van Riel (BEL).
After the third lap of the bike, the first chase group slowed and allowed a second chase pack to join the party. This allowed Richard Murray into the first chase and he quickly set to urging on the chasers. Murray’s leadership made an impact as the now enlarged first chase group stopped the time bleeding and maintained a 75 seconds gap to the end.
At the bell signaling the final of 8 laps, the chase group which included Mola (ESP), Murray (RSA), Alarza (ESP) , Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), Crisanto Grajales (MEX) and Dorian Coninx (FRA) arrived in T2 with a 1:14 deficit.
Alistair and Jonny Brownlee and Vincent Luis of France broke away immediately, with Henri Schoeman of South Africa, Marten Van Riel of Belgium and Aaron Royle of Australia 30 yards back and fellow first pack bikers Varga, Salvisberg, Kanute and Fabian dropping back.
Hanging on to hope by a thread, chasers Richard Murray, Mario Mola and Fernando Alarza began the run 1:15 down.
Halfway through the first lap, Luis dropped back and Schoeman advanced, making a pass for 3rd place as Royle and Van Riel fell back.
Near the end of Lap 2, Alistair Brownlee made the decisive move and opened a gap of 40 meters on brother Jonny. From that moment, he was well on his way to becoming the first man to defend his Olympic Triathlon gold medal. Schoeman held his pace in 3rd.
After 5k, Richard Murray started to pick off more first pack runners, taking 8th place while Mola advanced to 11th. But without making up much time on Schoeman, their quest for a medal seemed futile.
At the end of the third lap, Alistair lead Jonny by 15 seconds – seemingly heading for the biggest winning margin in Olympic men’s history. Schoeman was 38 second arrears and Vincent Luis was fighting with Van Riel at 58 seconds down. Charging hard, Murray reached 6th place.
At the finish, Alistair relaxed and took his time in the finish chute, letting Jonny come with 7 seconds at the line - and thus Alistair did not break the record for the largest margin of victory at the Olympic Men's triathlon - 13 seconds, set in 2000.
Henri Schoeman, whose highest finish on the WTS circuit was a 4th in 2015, took the bronze, 36 seconds behind Jonny Brownlee. After a sizzling run, Richard Murray advanced to 4th, 7 seconds out of the bronze.
2016 Olympic Men’s Triathlon
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
August 18, 2016
S 1.5k / B 38.4k / R 10k
1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) 1:45:01
2. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR)1:45:07
3. Henri Schoeman (RSA) 1:45:43
4. Richard Murray (RSA) 1:45:50
5. Joao Pereira (POR) 1:45:52
6. Marten Van Riel (BEL) 1:46:03
7. Vincent Luis (FRA) 1:46:12
8. Mario Mola (ESP) 1:46:26
9. Aaron Royle (AUS) 1:46:42
10. Ryan Bailie (AUS) 1:47:02
11. Richard Varga SVK) 1:47:17
12. Crisanto Grajales (MEX) 1:47:28
13. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 1:47:31
14. Alessandro Fabian (ITA) 1:47:35
15. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) 1:47:50
16. Andrea Salvisberg (SUI) 1:47:56
17. Ryan Sissons (NZL) 1:48:01
18. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 1:48:08
19. Sven Riederer (SUI) 1:48:15
20. Gábor Faldum (HUN) 1:48:20
23. Joe Maloy (USA) 1:48:30
29. Ben Kanute (UISA) 1:48:59
37. Gregory Billington (USA) 1:52:04
42, Manuel Huerta (PUR) 1:52:46