Alistair and Jonny Brownlee dominate London 2012 triathlon

When a nine-year-old Alistair Brownlee first entered the Leeds Schools cross country championships, taken along by his father Keith, he began in a field of 450 entrants and finished 400th.

Olympic champions have enjoyed more promising race debuts. Yet even in that inglorious muddy trouncing, there were signs of an attitude that would lead to gold in London a decade and a half later.

Alistair Brownlee wins triathlon gold

"He came up to me afterwards," remembers Keith, "the smallest one there, red in the face, three years younger than the big lads, and said, 'I think I'm a bit tubby for a runner. I think I'll stop eating chips and puddings'."

After Alistair's victory amid rare scenes of jubilation and bedlam in Hyde Park on Tuesday, he can probably enjoy chips on the house wherever he chooses.

This was a gold medal sealed in novel fashion. Other sports have victory laps; Brownlee enjoyed a victory walk, strolling across the finish line with flag held aloft at a pace slightly slower than most people go to the shops.

Do not be fooled into thinking it was anything but brutally hard work. This was not only the culmination of thousands of hours on the bike in the lanes of the Yorkshire Dales, of endless lengths of Leeds swimming pools or miles run around the footpaths and trails of Bramhope, Otley and Bradford, but of nearly two hours of blisteringly fast, relentless racing under immense pressure.

Even in an Olympics that has become famed for its crowds, Hyde Park was something else. They were 12-deep around the run course and almost that along the bike route, hanging out of trees to get a glimpse.

They were not to be disappointed.

The strategy planned with younger brother Jonny and team-mate Stuart Hayes stood strong under everything rivals and fate could throw at it.

Brownlee measures up

  • Alistair Brownlee's time of 29 minutes 7 seconds in the 10,000m of the triathlon was just 97 seconds slower than Mo Farah's gold-winning time in the 10,000m Olympic final.
  • Brownlee's time was quicker than Mykola Labovskyy's in the 10,000m final. The Ukrainian finished last in 29.32.
  • Brownlee swam the 1,500m in open water in 17.04. China's Sun Yang won the 1,500m gold in the pool with a world record time of 14.31.
  • Brownlee completed the 43km cycle in 59.03. Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins won gold in the 44km time trial in 50.39.

Their Slovakian friend Richard Varga took it out on the swim. An early break on the bike made others suffer; when the race came back together, Hayes played his domestique  role to perfection, controlling the pace and any attempted breaks.

When Jonny was hit with a 15-second penalty for mounting his bike a fraction too early, the brothers adjusted again: work former world champion Javier Gomez hard on the run, open up a gap over the fourth-placed athletes and let Jonny serve his punishment after three of the four run laps to give him the best chance of hanging on to bronze.

Gomez produced his best race in an age to take silver. But, torn apart by a 10km time of 29 mins 07 seconds - only a minute and a half down on that run by Mo Farah in taking track gold on Super Saturday - he was powerless to do more.

This was a gold and bronze forged in the most British of fashions.

Taken to swimming lessons by mother Cathy from the age of four, the Brownlee brothers would later cycle the seven miles to secondary school and then, thanks to the unusually benevolent attitude of their teachers at Bradford Grammar, be allowed out of the school grounds at lunchtime to go running.

At weekends spent in the tiny village of Coverdale, tucked in on the south side of Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales, they would ride the hills, run the trails and swim the cold waters of Semerwater.

Reaction

"There must be a million people in Hyde park today and the Brownlees have done is us so proud."

Daley Thompson on Twitter

"Congratulations to our Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee for his GOLD and his bro for the Bronze! Exciting race guys!"

Jenson Button on Twitter

"Brilliant fraternal victory in the triathlon for the Brownlee brothers. We've equalled our Beijing gold tally!"

Boris Johnson on Twitter

Riding and running was always fun, always done in the company of mates, a near-perfect base for future triathlon excellence achieved almost by happy accident.

There was also always a certain attitude, an unmistakeable determination.

When Alistair was a child watching sport on television at his parents' house in Horsforth, something set him apart from most other British kids: he always wanted the favourite to win.

Maybe after these astonishing Olympics the national love of the underdog will have disappeared, so dominant have so many British athletes been.

Brownlee, even after a year horribly disrupted by a serious Achilles injury, was still most people's pre-race tip for gold. Like his childhood heroes, he delivered.

Even among Britain's myriad startling performances here, however, this was something new: two brothers, two house-mates, both atop the podium.

Alistair's first memory of Jonny is being told, as he played with his toy cars in the garden, that he had a brother. As soon as the new arrival was old enough he started pushing him round the house in a little trolley.

Brownlee 'massively proud' of gold

All these years later, that partnership was once again in evidence in Hyde Park. You almost felt sorry for Gomez: most triathletes find it hard enough to beat one Brownlee, and here he was trying to beat two.

This has not been the easiest of years for the pair. Alistair's injury led to tensions as Jonny went training without him; Jonny's early World Series wins would have been difficult for any other triathlete to deal with, let alone one sharing the same house.

Later this year Jonny is due to move out of Alistair's home and into one of his own. Different characters, they will still share training schedules and long rides.

They also share an outlook that sets them apart from the thriving thousands of amateur triathletes this country now has.

Both are quite honest about it: they would rather have two years of winning, having pushed themselves so hard that injury then ends their careers, than 10 healthy years of average achievement.

Here in London they have the winning. Aged just 24 and 22, they might yet have the durability too.