COMETH the hour, cometh the brothers as Alistair and Jonny Brownlee produced the race of their lives to win Olympic gold and silver for Leeds, Yorkshire and Britain.
Not just one of this county’s greatest ever sporting triumphs, it was one of the most dominant victories in the history of UK endurance sport – a remorseless and relentless Alistair having time to wave to the crowd, and walk over the finish line in his own time, as he became the first triathlete in history to successfully defend an Olympic title.
It was the ultimate performance, one to rival the very best of Team GB’s great deeds in Brazil. One hour and 45 minutes of sporting supremacy in the searing heat of the Rio midday sun, years of training in their beloved Yorkshire paid off and ended with an emotional embrace as this one family team moved ahead of the likes of Ireland, Norway, Austria and Finland in the medal table after surpassing their first and third place finish in 2012 in London.
As well as their physical prowess, it’s also their humility which stands them apart from their peers – the streets of Rio were bedecked with Yorkshire flags and, closer to home, news of their victory was greeted with the biggest roar of the week at York’s Ebor festival. Don’t under-estimate this affection – it shows the wider public appreciate sporting greatness and the sacrifices that are now required to be the very best.
After all, it is thanks to these down-to-earth brothers that the eyes of the world were not just on the iconic Copacabana beach but also Leeds during this gruelling race. This city has only become home to the triathlon, with internationally-renowned training facilities, thanks to the brilliant Brownlees who have become the ultimate role models because of their dedication, endearing personalities and ambassadorial qualities. Long may they continue to win – and inspire the next generation who will have some of the biggest shoes of all to fill in any sport. Truly, their like will never be seen again. They are that special.
Marginal gains: Olympic teamwork in schools
THANKS to Team GB’s Olympic medal-winners, there is an added awareness about one of the most overlooked words in the vocabulary – ‘team’. As this country’s all-conquering cyclists have acknowledged, their success would not have been possible without those support staff who congregated on the winner’s podium for a symbolic group photo following the last race in the Rio velodrome.
It’s the same with all those Yorkshire students celebrating their A-level results. Not only have they made the grade with much hard work, and heartache, on their part, but because they’re fortunate to have been taught by top-class lecturers who know how to inform and inspire in equal measure. It’s just a shame that successive governments have not appreciated the true value of teachers, classroom assistants and other school staff to society.
This needs to change. For, while marks are comparable to 2015, all exam results could be so much better if the Government can halt the number of experienced teachers who are leaving the profession prematurely. This has to be one of Education Secretary Justine Greening’s top priorities. There needs to be far greater teamwork between Ministers, LEAs, and schools, whether it be reducing bureaucracy, improving careers advice and building better links with employers, if more pupils are to benefit from education’s equivalent of the so-called ‘aggregate of marginal gains’ which has transformed cycling. With the right team ethos, this principle should be applied to future policy-making in order to power a chain reaction which drives exam grades ever upwards.
Price of loyalty
SINCE when did loyalty become a crime? Now a recurring question, it goes to the heart of a spate of recent reports on how the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers, banks and others – like insurers – are exploiting the goodwill of longstanding customers who grew up trusting such organisations to provide them with the best deal for their needs.
Now a price tag can be attached to this consumer chicanery. All those households who have stayed with the same gas and electricity provider for five years or more have paid an astonishing £18.7bn over the odds, further proof that the Competition and Market Authority’s proposed reforms are toothless.
As well as making it easier for households to switch suppliers, it is critical that watchdogs make sure loyal customers – like the elderly who do not, will not or cannot shop around on the internet for the best deals – are fleeced no more.