If victory by the host is a component of a successful Olympics, the home team may have a family feud in store for next summer. With the London Games less than a year away, one of Great Britain's best candidates for gold, triathlete Alistair Brownlee, 23, is hearing footsteps from the competition; mainly, they come from his younger brother, Jonathan, 21.
Last weekend, Alistair set himself up as a strong favorite for triathlon gold in London when he won the International Triathlon Union's world championship, held in Beijing on Sept. 10. Alistair benefitted from the cool and rainy race day conditions in Beijing, and claimed victory even after taking time to high-five spectators in the home stretch. Jonathan finished third, which placed him in second for the season rankings, just behind his brother. The ITU world championship title was Alistair's sixth victory in eight races, including the European Championship, held this season in Pontevedra, where he lost nearly two minutes after puncturing a bike tire.
The tale of two determined young athletes first took shape in the woods near the family's home in Horsforth, when Alistair would try to wake his father, Keith, a doctor, for early morning runs; understandably, Keith would try to turn off the alarm and save his sleep.
Though the brothers live and train together, the cherubic faces belie a fire that once spawned a club hurling scrap after a heated round of golf. When a heat-strickened Alistair wobbled across the finish line in London last season, his mother, Cathy, also a doctor, rushed across the line to attend to him. Her impressive sprint led to the joke that Alistair finished tenth and Cathy placed 11th. Speed apparently runs (and bikes and swims) in the family.
Wet racing conditions oddly suit the elder Brownlee, who also won in the rain of London and Madrid this season. If the Olympic conditions are like those he overcame three times this season, he should be right at home in front of the home fans. If not, he may have to answer to Jonathan, who beat him in Lausanne earlier this season and has pushed him several times; Jonathan led the Beijing race after the swim, despite losing his goggles in the water. In the past three years of racing on the international circuit, only once has the pair entered a competition without earning at least one podium place.
At the Canoe/Kayak-Slalom World Championships in Bratislava, Caroline Queen earned the first Olympic slot in the women's kayak event for the U.S. Her run, just short of breaking into the top 30, grabbed the last Olympic boat quota spot.
In the team events, the U.S. men placed 10th in double canoe, while the other teams finished outside the top 10. Casey Eichfeld, a 2008 Olympian in double canoe, placed 19th in the canoe competition, narrowly missing out on earning another U.S. berth in London. Eichfeld placed 11th among nations, and the top 10 nations qualified for a slot in the Olympics.
On the men's side, kayaker Scott Parsons earned an Olympic slot for the U.S. by finishing 15th, a mere five seconds off the winner. Parsons, 32, retired after placing sixth at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and 20th at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but came back in 2010 to work towards another Olympic team spot. Parsons' work off the water helped him keep training in perspective; when not training, he spent much of his time making prostheses for war veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center, near his home in Bethesda, Md.
Fresh off his victory in the 100 meters at the world championships in Daegu, Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake ran a scorching 9.82 to win the Diamond League meeting in Zurich last week. Blake beat his personal best by .07 seconds and also beat his countryman Asafa Powell, who finished well back in 9.95, and U.S. sprinter Walter Dix, second in the 100 and 200 meters in Daegu, finished third. Jamaica's Usain Bolt, who was not in Zurich, told his training partner, Blake, before the race to make sure he kept the country's hot streak intact.
Bolt shot past another field on Tuesday night in Zagreb, Croatia, winning the 100 meters in 9.85 seconds, well ahead of ageless Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, who crossed in 10.01. Also in Zagreb, Cuban hurdler Dayron Robles exacted some revenge on Jason Richardson of the U.S., taking the 110 hurdles in 13 seconds flat, a half-stride ahead of Richardson. Richardson finished first at worlds after Robles was disqualified for impeding China's Liu Jiang in the finals there.
Andrei Moiseev of Russia and Victoria Tereschuk of Ukraine won the individual titles at the modern pentathlon world championships in Moscow over the weekend. Margaux Isaksen, the top U.S. individual finisher, placed 11th. Sam Sacksen of the U.S. set a new standard for the shooting portion of the competition, rattling off five shots in 9.03 seconds, the fastest mark ever recorded. It was the first championships held using laser shooting that allows the athletes to see the immediate results of their shots.