Thursday’s triathlons, on the opening day of Australia’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, were a disappointment for fans of Britain’s Brownlee brothers, both of whom bombed in the run due to prior injuries. South Africa’s Henri Schoeman, an Olympic bronze medalist, and Bermuda’s Flora Duffy ruled the day with gold medals.
Deviating from previous Commonwealth Games triathlons, the course was shortened from Olympic distance to a sprint race with a 750m swim, a 25km bike, and a 5km run.
The men’s triathlon was anything but boring. Alistair Brownlee led the way out of the swim. He was soon joined by Taylor Reid (New Zealand), Matthew Hauser (Australia), Henri Schoeman, and his brother, Jonny Brownlee, in a bike lead group. A pack of 12, including Australia’s Jake Birtwhistle, formed a chase group early on.
Schoeman’s Lead Shrinks Quickly in Final Two Kilometres
Schoeman dominated the run early on. By the second half of the leg, it was becoming clear that he was on his way to a gold medal finish, especially in the final 1,200m. Birtwhistle sped ahead of the chase group in the second half, leaving behind South Africa’s Richard Murray and Scotland’s Marc Austin. He soon passed Jonny to take second. By the final kilometre, there was no doubt that Birtwhistle was on his way to a silver finish.
Birtwhistle Fastest Runner, Austin Surprises the World with a Bronze Finish
Schoeman finished in 52:31, just seven seconds ahead of Birtwhistle. Surprisingly, Austin claimed bronze only 13 seconds behind the gold winner, possibly leading to a few spectators losing bets and either having to shave their heads or sing I ‘Enry the Eighth I Am while tap dancing in public. At least he wasn’t on anyone’s radar until near the end of the run.
What the Heck Happened to the Brownlees?
Jonny and Alistair finished in seventh and tenth, respectively.
Alistair damaged his calf last month, leading to a lot of lost running time in his training. He told the Guardian, “I’ve probably run a handful of times in the last month or so and I knew that was going to be tough. My main priority in the last two weeks has been making sure my calf held up so I could get round OK. I knew I hadn’t run very fast for more than a minute or two at a time so when you’ve got to do it for 15km, it’s not going to go very well for you.”
Jonny also lost a lot of training time with a femur problem. After the race, he tweeted that he “didn’t have the legs” to compete well in the run. He told Reuters, “I missed a lot of training but I thought I would do better than this.”
Both brothers hope to do better in Saturday’s Mixed Relay Triathlon.
Flora Duffy Easily Takes First Commonwealth Games Gold
The women’s triathlon was no contest. Duffy finished in 56:50, 43 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor, Jessica Learmonth of Britain. This was Duffy’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal. Canadian Joanna Brown had a fierce final lap with England’s Vicki Holland, but she eventually claimed bronze five seconds behind Learmonth.
Duffy was the expected winner before the race began, but it wasn’t as boring as you might expect. Duffy exited the swim just barely ahead of Learmonth. Both finished the bike together at 39:23 into the race. Just after the first lap, she widened the lead to 18 seconds.
Duffy and Brown both had a rough early season. Duffy dropped out of International Triathlon Union’s World Triathlon Abu Dhabi after an accident during the bike leg and an unsuccessful attempt to fix her chain. Brown fractured her shoulder in the same race. The Abu Dhabi course was plagued by an unusual number of bike crashes in the men’s and women’s elite races.