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© ITU / Janos Schmidt
Brownlee-Gomez: dominance, brilliance
Posted by: JohnLevison
Posted on: Wednesday 14th May 2014


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This coming Saturday, 17th May, the third round of the 2014 World Triathlon Series will reach Yokohama, Japan.

For the first time this year, we will also get the opportunity to witness the three giants of men's ITU racing go head-to-head, as Alistair Brownlee is set to return for his first WTS event of the season alongside younger brother Jonathan Brownlee and Spain's Javier Gomez on the start pontoon at Yamashita Park.

The first two races of 2014, in Auckland (see video highlights HERE) and Cape Town (see video highlights HERE), have had the same result with a dominant Javier Gomez leading home Jonathan Brownlee in both events, their stranglehold in both being strongly in place within the first kilometre of the run course. Adding Alistair into the mix reduces even further the chances of anyone else outside of this trio with sights set on the top step of the podium in Japan. Actually, based on history, it makes the chances of that happening practically impossible...

triathlon.org / Delly Carr / Janos M. Schmidt / ITU

So, how dominant have this trio been, and who - if anyone - can break their total dominance of the ITU scene?


Alistair Brownlee - WCS / WTS Career History Statistics 2009-2014

Races
22
Wins
16
Silver
1
Bronze
1
Podiums
18
Win % age
73%
Podium % age
82%
World Championships Gold 2009, 2011

Alistair Brownlee is quite simply, the fastest triathlete we have ever seen. His record in the top tier of ITU racing over the past five seasons is simply stunning, to the point that a race where he doesn't win, is a more significant story than the 16, so far, in which he has crossed the line first. Who can forget his London 2010 meltdown for example?

Such consistent dominance is particularly amazing when you factor the significant periods of time he has spent on the sidelines with injury - and yet still, so far at least - been able to bounce back seemingly stronger. Alistair regards his 2013 season as something of a disaster. That is a year in which he ran 28:32 for 10,000m on the track, won WTS races in San Diego, Kitzb├╝hel and Stockholm and finished a close second to his brother in a sprint finish in Hamburg. An injury-impacted 'failure' in London however meant no World Championship title - or even medal - for Alistair. A season of dreams for most, but Alistair Brownlee sets his standards far higher than that.

Javier on Alistair: "I always enjoy beating the best. And Alistair is the best. I know how hard it is to beat him."

Jonathan on Alistair: "He has shown me that top athletes don't need to be superheroes or do super-hero things to win world titles. You can be normal and still make the Olympics."

triathlon.org / Delly Carr / ITU

Jonathan Brownlee - WCS / WTS Career History Statistics 2009-2014

Races
22
Wins
7
Silver
8
Bronze
4
Podiums
19
Win % age
32%
Podium % age
86%
World Championships Gold 2012, Silver 2011 & 2013

Two years ago I wrote an article called 'Jonathan Brownlee is Mr. Consistent'. What has changed since then? Nothing - the list has just got longer!!

4th July 2010, the ETU European Triathlon Championships in Athlone was the last time that Jonathan didn't finish on the podium in a triathlon. In ANY triathlon.

In a list which is rapidly heading towards 50 consecutive races, Jonathan Brownlee should be called 'The Postman', because he always delivers...

His breakthrough on the WTS circuit was, ironically, in that 'meltdown' race of 2010. Jonathan finished second to Javier Gomez for his first medal at the top tier of ITU racing - and since that moment he has NEVER left it. NINETEEN consecutive WCS/WTS events, and never finished lower than third since that first medal, London 2010.

Here is a list of names: Sven Riederer (SUI) and Alexander Bryhukankov (RUS). That's it, two names. They are the only two athletes (and they have only managed it once each, Beijing and London in 2011, respectively...), that have, aside from Alistair and Javier, finished ahead of Jonathan in his last 19 WTS races. That is actually one more WTS podium finish than Alistair has achieved in his career...

Alistair on Jonathan : "His racing ability is phenomenal. He is the most consistent athlete out there"

Javier on Jonathan: "Alistair used to be the stronger, but they're getting closer. They're almost on the same level."

triathlon.org / Delly Carr / ITU

Javier Gomez - WCS / WTS Career History Statistics 2009-2014

Races
34
Wins
8
Silver
13
Bronze
5
Podiums
26
Win % age
24%
Podium % age
76%
World Championships Gold 2010, 2013, Silver 2009, 2012, Bronze 2011

It is practically impossible to consider the career of the Brownlee brothers without talking about Javier Gomez. He is the one that set the standard to which everyone had to aspire (remember, Gomez won five consecutive ITU World Cup races in 2008), and so far, the only one that has been able to consistently raise his own game and constantly take the fight back to the impressive brothers from Yorkshire. As I said after the 2012 Olympics, Javier Gomez is a true champion - and is the athlete that motivates the Brownlee brothers the most. With World Championship medals every year since 2007, with good reason.

One of the impressive things about Gomez is that he races so well, so often. With 34 starts, only Dmitry Polyanskiy (with 35), has raced more WCS / WTS races than the 2013 World Champion - who maintains a podium percentage of over 75%. Add in an XTERRA World Championship, ETU Middle Distance Championship, 70.3 Panama win, two Hy-Vee 5150 Championships and more... Javier Gomez is a racing machine.

Alistair on Javier: "I don't think people realise just how good he is. For across-the-board swim / bike / run ability he is amazing, probably the best there is... "

Jonathan on Javier: "He's an incredible athlete and he's got no weaknesses."

triathlon.org / Delly Carr / ITU

Aggregate WCS / WTS Career Stats of the Big Three 2009-2014

Wins
31
Silver
22
Bronze
10
Win % age (of all WCS/WTS events)
74%
Adjusted WCS/WTS win % age **
84%

** this adjusted percentage excludes the events between Tongyeong 2009 and Cape Town 2014 where none of the 'big three' took part in the race. During that period, none of the three athletes in question raced at the following five events (i.e. 31 wins were achieved from a possible 37 events - as you can't win a race you were not at!):

  • 2009 - Tongyeong
  • 2009 - Hamburg
  • 2010 - Sydney
  • 2011 - Yokohama
  • 2012 - Sydney

Thus, of the total of 42 WCS/WTS races since the series was launched in 2009 through to the Cape Town race in 2014, a Brownlee or Javier Gomez has won 31 of the 37 events (84%) that at least one of them has started.

If it is that difficult to win when at least one of them starts, what are your chances of beating all three at the same time? Let's look at that...

Podium results where all three have started the same WTS Event 2009-2014

Yokohama 2014 should be the 15th time that Alistair, Jonathan and Javier have all started the same WTS event. Here are the podium results from the previous 14 races.

Year
Event
Gold
Silver
Bronze
2009
Kitzbuhel
Alistair Brownlee
Javier Gomez
Laurent Vidal
2009
London
Alistair Brownlee
Steffen Justus
Kris Gemmell
2010
Madrid
Alistair Brownlee
Courtney Atkinson
Sven Riederer
2010
London
Javier Gomez
Jonathan Brownlee
Jan Frodeno
2011
Sydney
Javier Gomez
Jonathan Brownlee
Sven Riederer
2011
Madrid
Alistair Brownlee
Jonathan Brownlee
Javier Gomez
2011
London
Alistair Brownlee
Alexander Bryukhankov
Jonathan Brownlee
2011
Lausanne
Jonathan Brownlee
Javier Gomez
Alistair Brownlee
2011
Beijing
Alistair Brownlee
Sven Riederer
Jonathan Brownlee
2012
Kit
Alistair Brownlee
Jonathan Brownlee
Javier Gomez
2012
London (Olympics)
Alistair Brownlee
Javier Gomez
Jonathan Brownlee
2013
Hamburg
Jonathan Brownlee
Alistair Brownlee
Javier Gomez
2013
Stockholm
Alistair Brownlee
Javier Gomez
Jonathan Brownlee
2013
London
Javier Gomez
Jonathan Brownlee
Mario Mola

Alistair Brownlee wins = 9 from 14, podium = 11 from 14
Javier Gomez wins = 3 from 14, podium = 10 from 14
Jonathan Brownlee wins = 2 from 15, podium = 11 from 14

The Brownlee-Gomez combination has won EVERY WCS / WTS event where all three have started.

Of the 42 total medals available (Gold, Silver, Bronze), in the 14 WCS / WTS races that both Brownlees and Javier Gomez have started, they have won 32 of those (76%), including six races in which they have taken all three podium spots.

In those 14 races, at least two of the three podium positions have been filled by Alistair, Javier and Jonathan on 12 instances (86%).

So to answer the question "what are your chances of beating all three at the same time?" So far at least, NONE!

The contenders to the throne(s)?

Given the dominance of the Brownlee-Gomez trilogy, a question to be asked then is who is the most likely to be able to break into that 'elite' tier of performance and expand that trio to a competitive four(or more)some? While the saying goes that 'past performance shouldn't be used to forecast future returns' in the world of finance, within our triathlon world - as with this Kona example - it is actually a pretty good place to start. Given that, let's have a more detailed look at the athletes who have actually scored a win at the top tier of WCS / WTS racing, and assess their future prospects of perhaps doing so again.

Athlete
Wins
When / Where Currently racing?
Jan Frodeno
2
Yokohama (09), Seoul (10) Racing Ironman 70.3
Bevan Docherty
2
Tongyeong (09), Sydney (10) Racing Ironman & Ironman 70.3
Joao Silva
2
Yokohama (11,12) Active ITU athlete, three podiums in 2013
Brad Kahlefeldt
1
Hamburg (11) Racing Ironman 70.3
Jarrod Shoemaker
1
Hamburg (09) Still racing ITU
Steffen Justus
1
Sydney (12) Active ITU athlete, fourth 2012 Grand Final
Richard Murray
1
Hamburg (12) Active ITU athlete, five top-10's in 2013 WTS
Stuart Hayes
1
Kitzbühel (10) Primarily racing non-drafting Lifetime Fitness Series

The first thing of note is that of the 42 WTC / WTS events since the 2009 debut (see bottom of article for full archive listing), only 11 have not been won by a Brownlee or Javier Gomez, and that with two wins each for Bevan Docherty (NZL), Jan Frodeno (GER) and Joao Silva (POR), only eight other athletes over five racing seasons have experienced the top step of the podium.

Looking at the eight athletes, three of them (Frodeno, Docherty and Kahlefeldt) are now racing full-time on the longer Ironman and Ironman 70.3 circuit. All are performing well there, but the chances of any of them both returning and winning on the WTS circuit in the future looks negligible.

The same can be said for Stuart Hayes, who secured a brilliant career defining WCS victory in Kitzbühel in 2010, but these days is more focussed on utilising his swim-bike strengths within the non-drafting world.

Jarrod Shoemaker (USA) secured his victory in Hamburg during the debut season of the WCS. He added an ITU Duathlon World Championship title to his CV later the same season. A consistent top ten finisher on the series during 2010 too, his form has not been quite at that level in recent years, despite some strong showings on the (now 'second tier') World Cup circuit.

triathlon.org / Delly Carr / ITU

That leaves Richard Murray (RSA), Joao Silva (POR) and Steffen Justus (GER) as the only three active, World Triathlon Series previous winners who have shown recent performances to suggest that they have realistic hopes of once again taking World Triathlon Series Gold.

To that trio the most obvious name to add is that of Spain's Mario Mola, who finished the 2013 season with a World Championship Bronze medal, and won two early season World Cup races in 2014 - including a victory over Gomez in New Plymouth. He appears to have the run legs - can he get his swim consistently into that fast front group?

triathlon.org / Delly Carr / ITU

Can any of these athletes - or perhaps a wildcard - end the Brownlee-Gomez stanglehold?

Is dominance hurting the sport?

So the stats show that the Brownlee-Gomez era is making results predictable, but is that reason to suggest that it is a bad thing? In my opnion, we should applaud brilliance, and that is what this trio of greats is providing. To have three athletes at the very top of their game, consistently improving and taking their sport to new levels should be a privilege to watch and enjoy. They are not killing the sport - the only thing they are killing are their opponents...

Let us take a different view. Anyone for tennis? Take a look at this for some startling similarities...

Year
Australian
French
Wimbledon
U.S. Open
2003
Agassi
Ferrero
Federer
Roddick
2004
Federer
Gaudio
Federer
Federer
2005
Safin
Nadal
Federer
Federer
2006
Federer
Nadal
Federer
Federer
2007
Federer
Nadal
Federer
Federer
2008
Djokovic
Nadal
Nadal
Federer
2009
Nadal
Federer
Federer
Del Potro
2010
Federer
Nadal
Nadal
Nadal
2011
Djokovic
Nadal
Djokovic
Djokovic
2012
Djokovic
Nadal
Federer
Murray
2013
Djokovic
Nadal
Murray
Nadal

What do we see?

  • A consistent, dominant athlete at the top of their game, winning the majority of the biggest (Grand Slam) events in the sport. Consistently brilliant, classy, elegant and a pleasure to watch. Roger Federer (Javier Gomez).
  • A new, younger name on the scene, not intimidated, aggressive and happy to take the game to the dominant name in the sport with relentless athleticism and a never say die attitutde. Deals with injuries, bounces back. Rafael Nadal (Alistair Brownlee).
  • How can you break into the top three, and take on arguably the two greatest athletes in your sport's history? By taking a beating from time to time, believing in yourself, dealing with losing finals and coming through to be a consistent winner, as the big two become the big three. Novak Djokovic (Jonathan Brownlee).

Perhaps there is a sign... will Richard Murray be the next 'Andy Murray' and challenge the top three consistently?!

Interesting thing is, I don't remember too many people cheering if one or more of those legends misses a Grand Slam, on the basis is might make the result 'more open'. People want to see the best - and Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are among the greatest ever. As are Brownlee, Brownlee and Gomez!

We are witnessing brilliance in Men's ITU Triathlon racing right now, and we must recognise and appreciate it.

 

2000 Olympic Champion and Beijing Silver medal winner, Simon Whitfield summed up the three after their Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the London 2012 Olympics as follows:

"@jonny_brownlee @jgomeznoya @alibrownleetri Hats off to you, you have taken our sport to a new level. #Champions

triathlon.org / Delly Carr / ITU

I'll leave the last word with the reigning ITU World Champion, and winner of the last three World Triathlon races, Javier Gomez who after the Hamburg race in 2013 said:

"When the three of us are fit, we put on a good show"

You do indeed, and I look forward to enjoying plenty more.

-----------

Winners History - WCS / WTS Races Since 2009 Launch to Cape Town 2014

Year
Event #
Location First Name Last Name
2009
1
Tongyeong Bevan Docherty
 
2
Madrid Alistair Brownlee
 
3
Washington Alistair Brownlee
 
4
Kitzbuhel Alistair Brownlee
 
5
Hamburg Jarrod Shoemaker
 
6
London Alistair Brownlee
 
7
Yokohama Jan Frodeno
 
8
Gold Coast Alistair Brownlee
2010
1
Sydney Bevan Docherty
 
2
Seoul Jan Frodeno
 
3
Madrid Alistair Brownlee
 
4
Hamburg Javier Gomez
 
5
London Javier Gomez
 
6
Kitzbuhel Stuart Hayes
 
7
Budapest Alistair Brownlee
2011
1
Sydney Javier Gomez
 
2
Madrid Alistair Brownlee
 
3
Kitzbuhel Alistair Brownlee
 
4
Hamburg Brad Kahlefeldt
 
5
London Alistair Brownlee
 
6
Lausanne Jonathan Brownlee
 
7
Beijing Alistair Brownlee
 
8
Yokohama Joao Silva
2012
1
Sydney Steffen Justus
 
2
San Diego Jonathan Brownlee
 
3
Madrid Jonathan Brownlee
 
4
Kitzbuhel Alistair Brownlee
 
5
Hamburg Richard Murray
 
6
London (Olympics)** Alistair Brownlee
 
7
Stockholm Jonathan Brownlee
 
8
Yokohama Joao Silva
 
9
Auckland Javier Gomez
2013
1
Auckland Javier Gomez
 
2
San Diego Alistair Brownlee
 
3
Yokohama Jonathan Brownlee
 
4
Madrid Jonathan Brownlee
 
5
Kitzbuhel Alistair Brownlee
 
6
Hamburg Jonathan Brownlee
 
7
Stockholm Alistair Brownlee
 
8
London Javier Gomez
2014
1
Auckland Javier Gomez
 
2
Cape Town Javier Gomez

** While the London 2012 Olympic Games wasn't formally a 'WTS' event, it was a scoring event within the 2012 WTS series points tables in the same manner as a regular WTS race, and for that reason, I have included it within my analysis.


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