“Hi Alistair Brownlee here. Great to be re-living this iconic race.”
And so Great Britain’s two-time Olympic and World Champion Alistair Brownlee got the latest edition of exclusive reLIVE shows underway on TriathlonLIVE.tv, joined by South Africa’s Richard Murray to watch back the iconic 2016 Grand Final Cozumel in the company of thousands of fans on Saturday.
The action may have culminated in one of the most talked-about sporting moments of modern times, but even before the start horn, the pre-race drama was high.
With brother Jonathan Brownlee and Spain’s Mario Mola battling for the world title and all just a month after their Rio 2016 Olympic exertions, Alistair himself had won the Aquathlon world title just days before. With temperatures in the low 30C, race management was always going to be important. Few could have predicted quite how much.
The swim course was magnificent and it was the perfect start for the Brownlees out first with Aurelien Raphael, Mola leaving the water 20 seconds back.
AB - These were the most severe conditions i’ve raced in.
RM - The fish were great to look at but this was one of my worst swims!
AB - I wasn’t feeling that great to be honest but I knew I was fit and just wanted to race the end of the season.
The conditions were a huge talking point. Race officials and the ITU Sports Director were also watching back discuss the changes to the schedule and extra steps taken to ensure athletes’ safety. Brownlee was asked if the race should have been changed to a sprint-distance.
AB - There is still capacity to overheat in Sprint racing because you can go harder even if dehydration isn’t so much of an issue. On one hand I think racing to the conditions is important. On the other races shouldn’t be in conditions that put athletes lives at risk. The race had already been moved 2 hours later (if memory serves).
RM - I can’t recall how the legs were feeling, but I don’t recall them feeing good at all. Some days the legs feel weak on bike but on run they are okay. It’s odd.
AB - We were trying to take as many people with us as possible. We needed Mario to finish with people in front of him. That was only going to happen if we had a break with a big gap
Alistair dropped back and took his time in the opening kilometres of the run while Henri Schoeman and Jonny Brownlee lay down the gauntlet. It was the Rio 2016 medal trio at it again, meanwhile Mola and Murray were picking their way through to the top 5 unaware that Brownlee was in trouble.
AB - In the early stages I was trying to just run at my own pace.
RM - Down the finish shoot, I thought Ali and Jonny were celebrating arm in arm… I never knew Jonny was in trouble so I backed off… If I only knew haha
It is one of the enduring images of world sport as Alistair helped his brother to the line in second behind Schoeman, Mola’s fifth-place finish enough to win the world title by the finest of margins. The older Brownlee admitted he didn’t know the moment had gone viral until the next day and that he was instead thinking he might get a DSQ.
ITU Sport Director Gergely Markus and Race official Ulf Schuetze revealed how it looked behind the scenes after the finale.
US - I do remember everyone checking their rule books at the finish line. But there was nothing in it that explicitly disallowed assisting another athlete in this way. Now, however, the rules have changed so this finish will be forever unique to our sport.
GM - At this very moment we were looking carefully what the rules says exactly. It allowed assistance from officials or other athletes. If other athletes help, it could not mean that the athlete who is helping the other is not able to finish the race. There was no mention of physical assistance of the forward movement of another athlete. A protest was filed and the Competition Jury denied it finally. It meant Mario becoming the World Champion, Jonny silver and Fernando Alarza bronze.
There was also an opportunity to shine some light on future plans following one viewer’s question about the possibility of changes to the WTS format.
You can watch back and read all the comments here on TriathlonLIVE.tv and we continue the reLIVE series with Lisa Norden, Barbara Riveros and Maaike Caelers joining us to reLIVE the 2012 World Triathlon Stockholm on Sunday 10 May at 9pm CEST.