Finally, Johnny Brownlee can call himself an Olympic champion after so many near misses and hard luck stories. In a sweaty and entrancing race, Brownlee was part of the Team GB’s mixed sprint triathlon team that won gold here by 14 seconds, ahead of the United States and France.
Brownlee, who had won individual bronze in London 2012 and silver in Rio 2016, produced a brilliant second leg after taking over from Jessica Learmonth and established a gap that Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee never looked like relinquishing.
“Olympics? Completed it,” said Brownlee afterwards. “It feels absolutely amazing. It’s my third Olympics and I’ve finally got gold.”
In the Olympic race, each athlete had to complete a super-sprint triathlon consisting of a 300m swim, 6.8km bike, and 2km run before tagging off to their next team- mate.
Britain’s seventh gold medal of these Games was set up by Learmonth, whose powerful swim put Britain in a lead group of four with Germany, the US and the Netherlands.
Brownlee then pushed clear and established a 21-second lead that Taylor-Brown on leg three was largely able to maintain.
When Yee had a 17-second lead on the bike it looked all over. However he had two of the best triathletes in the world, Vincent Luiz and Morgan Pearson, chasing him down.
The Frenchman put in an astonishing bike ride to pull it back, but Yee still had a 10 metre lead as they went off on the bike. That lead had extended to 50m by the end of the first of the two laps on the run and Yee was able to power home before jumping into Brownlee’s arms at the finish.
But this race, most of all, was about Brownlee the Younger finally making it to the highest step of the Olympic podium after more than a decade as one of the world’s elite triathletes.
During that time the 31-year-old has been a world champion, Commonwealth champion, and – incredibly – finished on the podium in each of the 42 races he competed in between July 2010 and May 2014.
He has also won two Olympic medals – bronze in London 2012, after incurring a 15-second penalty when he got his bike too early, and silver behind as his older brother Alistair finished top of the podium on both occasions.
Afterwards Alistair told the Guardian that his younger brother had never touched his gold medals because he thought it would be bad luck. Now, though, Johnny has one of his own.