THE dynamic between two of the greatest brothers in sport reaches a head tomorrow.
Alistair and Jonny Brownlee go into the grand final of the ITU World Series at Hyde Park in London knowing the man who breasts the tape first will be crowned world champion.
For so long Jonny has followed where Alistair has led but even last year in the wake of the latter winning the Olympic title, the younger of the two remarkable young Leeds brothers was striding out on his own to win his first global crown.
Now, after a year in which they have traded wins and injuries, the two-headed beast that has rewritten the rule book on triathlon returns to the scene of last year’s memorable Olympic moment divided.
London 2012 gold medallist Alistair is favourite to win a third world title, having claimed three wins this season, including one in the last outing in Stockholm.
Jonny, who also has three wins to his name, including one at the sprint distance against his brother in Hamburg, can retain his title with victory. Spain’s Javier Gomez, the man who split the two on the London 2012 podium, is the only one who can prevent another golden moment for the Brownlee family.
Alistair can afford to finish second to Gomez and still win, and although he has crossed the line first three times in Hyde Park, he admits in some ways he would rather not have returned.
He said: “It’s a bit like everything with the Olympics, you build up to it over a period of years and then it comes and it happens and you’re not really sure how to react to it in the aftermath.
“When you wake up the morning afterwards, what do you go and do next?
“Coming back to this Olympic course is a bit like that. I never even thought when I was training for it last year that I’d be coming back and doing another race here.
“It is a bit strange. It would have been quite nice to draw a line under it last year and move on.”
It is not unusual for Olympic champions to struggle in the aftermath of achieving the biggest thing in their sport.
But, strange though things may have been post-London, the competitive fire inside Alistair burns just as strongly.
“I’ve achieved more than I ever set out to achieve or ever dreamed I would when I was an eight-year-old starting triathlon,” he said.
“That’s fantastic but it hasn’t altered my motivation at all.
“It’s just made me a bit more content. But as soon as I start training or stick me on a start line, I’m still the most competitive person in the world.”
Alistair is no stranger to injuries – an Achilles problem almost derailed his Olympic dream – and this year has been no different.
An ankle injury has been a persistent problem and has taken the edge away from his running, which is the element of triathlon on which he normally blows his opponents out of the water. In the last race in Stockholm, the Yorkshireman attacked on the bike and pulled away from Gomez and his brother before holding onto his advantage to take a third win of the season.
Alistair said: “It’s been a tough year. I wanted it to be more low key. In some respects it has but in others it’s been hard because of everything that’s gone on.
“This is my last race so I’m hoping to have one more good performance then I can have a rest and can reset a bit, get things right. I’ll do what I can to win but you’re dependent on so many factors. Winning another world title would be special, and this would be the most satisfying one.”
Alistair’s Achilles problem put him out of the reckoning last year, and Jonny took advantage to keep the title in the family for the third time in four years. The 23-year-old has proven since winning the Olympic bronze that he is ready to step out of his sibling’s shadow, whether or not he is willing to acknowledge so publically.
Jonny said: “Alistair tends to beat me over the Olympic distance but he’s had a tough year. Hopefully, he’ll be fit but it’s going to be hard for him. Hopefully, I can beat him.”