Brownlee Brothers Thrive On Sibling Rivalry

Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee hope their competitive drive will lead to Olympic glory.

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Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee hope their competitive drive will lead to Olympic glory.

Photo: Delly Carr/

How apt that a meeting with the Brownlee brothers, precocious yet disarmingly unaffected headliners of this year’s Olympic triathlon, should take place in the hubbub of the family kitchen. The surrounds of an oven, work surface and vibrant Christmas decorations appear the perfect fit for a pair who temper the dedication of elite sport with a heavy dose of domesticity.

As their mother, Cath, a GP here in Leeds, roots out a picture of the two boys play-fighting with sticks, you would not suppose that Alistair and Jonny Brownlee were on the cusp of chasing Olympic gold and silver in one of the toughest endurance events of all. “They’re just our boys, really,” she says. “We have to pinch ourselves every time we see them on television. We think, ‘That can’t possibly be them.’ They could bounce in here, demand their tea in five minutes flat and expect me to create it. That’s more like them.”

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But both members of this double act are already stars. So pre-eminent have they become in their beloved triathlon that there is talk of whether they will fulfil the dream scenario in London of crossing the line not merely first and second, but in a dead heat. The pensive Alistair, 23, and a two-time world champion, is plainly taken with the idea of a collaborative race.

“If we both work with each other, we’re stronger than we are as individuals. There’s a respect. We know better than any other athletes have ever known how hard the other has worked. When you live with someone and remember how many early mornings you have gone through together, you can’t really hide it, even if you attempt to.”

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