The most decorated triathlete in Olympic triathlon history, Jonny Brownlee is a true legend of the sport.
Growing up in Bramhope, Leeds, UK, Jonny attended Bradford Grammar School alongside his older brother and fellow future triathlon great Alistair. During his A-Levels Jonny sat his history exam in Vancouver whilst competing as a junior at the World Triathlon Championships, where he picked up a bronze medal.
Jonny has revealed Alistair was his biggest idol growing up, and says he was inspired to represent his country after seeing his older brother come home one day in Team GB kit. In addition to triathlon, Brownlee is a keen fan of football (Leeds United), cricket and rugby (Leeds Rhinos).
Jonny has won at junior and senior level in individual, sprint and relay races throughout his career. At individual level, he has won multiple World Triathlon events and was crowned World Champion in 2012. He has won medals at every Olympic Games he has attended – London, Rio and Tokyo. That London 2012 race was one of his favourites as he won a bronze medal in front of a delighted home crowd. He completed his set of Olympic medals with Mixed Relay gold at the delayed Tokyo Games in 2021.
Following the Tokyo Olympics, Brownlee signalled his intention to race at longer distances and he finished sixth on his IRONMAN 70.3 debut in Cascais, Portugal.
Brownlee’s spectacular 2021 ended in terrific fashion when he was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List.
In 2022, Jonny Brownlee made a real case for the Paris Olympic team, which would be his fourth Olympics, after picking up a win at the World Cup Arzachena before finishing 2nd at WTCS Cagliari for his first WTCS podium since Edmonton in 2019.
Career record and results
Jonny Brownlee’s international triathlon career officially began at the 2006 Salford ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup where the then 16-year-old finished second. His first gold on the international circuit came in 2009 at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival – where he finished 15 seconds clear of Sam Appleton.
By 2010, Jonny had started to record some impressive results at U23 and senior level. At the ITU World Championship Series London he finished second behind overall winner Javier Gomez, but finished first, ahead of 2006 ITU Triathlon World Champion Tim Don, at the ITU Elite Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Lausanne. Brownlee also won the U23 ITU Triathlon World Championship at the Grand Final in Budapest.
During his first full year at senior level in 2011, Jonny finished second in the WTS men’s championship behind brother Alistair and retained the Sprint Worlds title in Lausanne.
A year after his silver medal in the overall men’s championship, Brownlee would go one better in 2012 as he took the men’s senior world championship for the first time. That success came via fantastic results on the ITU World Triathlon circuit, winning in San Diego, Madrid and Stockholm as well as claiming a silver medal at Kitzbühel. There was also Mixed Relay World Championship success in Stockholm.
In 2014, Brownlee picked up two more mixed relay gold medals at the ITU Triathlon World Championships in Hamburg and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. He would also leave the Scottish city with a silver medal in the individual race behind gold medallist Alistair.
Following a mixed 2015 (early wins in Auckland and Gold Coast, but a mechanical in London), there would be another Brownlee one-two in 2016. This time however it was extra special – in front of a home crowd at the inaugural ITU World Triathlon Leeds where Jonny would take silver. The Brownlee brothers would repeat the trick 12 months later.
At the 2018 ITU World Triathlon in Leeds, Jonny would record a heartbreaking DNF, caused by a stomach bug he had caught before the race. Despite his bad luck in 2018, Brownlee still claimed silver medals in the Commonwealth Games mixed relay and Lausanne ITU Triathlon World Cup.
Nearly two years after his last WTS podium, Brownlee finally ended his winless streak at 2019 ITU World Triathlon Edmonton with a time of 54:52, beating second-placed Mario Mola by five seconds.
COVID-19 disrupted Brownlee’s 2020 and delayed the Olympics by a year, but he still went to Tokyo off the back of a win at the 2021 World Triathlon Cup Arzachena and ninth place at the AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds.
At the 2021 Super League Triathlon Championship Series, Jonny – representing Team Cheetahs – finished with 50 points in third place behind Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde. In London he finished the Triple Mix race with the bronze medal, collecting 13 points. He recorded two back-to-back second-place finishes at Munich and Jersey, and had a one-point leading going into the series final in Malibu. However, it was not meant to be for Brownlee in California as he finished in seventh position as Alex Yee took the overall title.
In 2022, Brownlee supplemented podiums at the World Cup in Arzachena and the WTCS in Cagliari with another third place finish in the 2022 Super League Triathlon Championship Series, after his consistency throughout the first four rounds was topped off with a 2nd place at the Grand Final in Neom.
Jonny Brownlee at the Olympics
At Tokyo 2020, Brownlee became the most decorated triathlete in Olympic triathlon history when he was part of the gold-winning Team GB in the inaugural Mixed Relay.
It was Brownlee’s first ever Olympic gold in his third Games as he starred alongside Jess Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and the aforementioned Yee. Brownlee raced in leg two and produced the best time of the whole race with a stunning 20:03, handing over to Taylor-Brown with a nine-second lead over Team USA.
Five days earlier in the individual race in Tokyo, Jonny had missed out on another Olympic podium as he finished in fifth position, 29 seconds behind bronze medallist Hayden Wilde. Still, as he would famously say before leaving Tokyo with a full set of medals at the biggest show on earth: “Olympics, completed it”.
At his first ever Olympics, London 2012, Jonny had won bronze despite a 15-second penalty. During the race at Hyde Park he was penalised after mounting his bike too early in the transition zone after emerging from the 1.5km swim in fourth position. Although he was then forced to serve the punishment, in a designated box during the 10km run, it did not stop the Yorkshireman from reaching the podium in 1:46:56.
Brownlee went one better at Rio 2016, winning the silver medal in another historic Brownlee one-two. Jonny joined his brother on the finishing line some six seconds after Alistair had coasted to victory – making history as the first brothers to win gold and silver in the same event at an Olympic Games.
The Brownlee Brothers
The Brownlee brothers have been the faces of UK triathlon for more than a decade and have helped to promote the sport to future generations. Olympic silver medallist Yee is just one of many British triathletes to have been inspired by the Leeds duo.
The watershed moment for the brothers came at their home Olympics in 2012, becoming the pride of the nation as they became the first brothers since 1908 to finish on a Games podium. Following London 2012, the two set up the Brownlee Foundation, which aims to inspire children from all backgrounds to enjoy sport and encourage them to lead active lifestyles.
A defining image of the Brownlees came at the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Cozumel. Jonny needed to win on the Mexican island and hope Spaniard Mario Mola would finish no higher than fourth to become the world champion again.
However, the race did not go as planned for Jonny and he was affected by heat exhaustion near the finish. Noticing his brother’s plight, Alistair carried Jonny over the finishing line to second place in a true symbol of brotherly love. However, a fifth-place finish from Mola was enough for the Spaniard to become world champion. It may not be the first thing either brother would want to talk about in an interview, but the show of brotherly love provided an enduring image which catapulted triathlon into the mainstream media.
Jonny Brownlee and family
Brownlee picked up triathlon when he was only six years old after being inspired by his uncle Simon Hearnshaw – who was a keen triathlete. After watching his uncle compete, Jonny wanted to try a triathlon of his own.
Jonny swam from an early age for Aireborough Swimming Club as his mum Cathy was a keen swimmer, while his dad Keith was a runner. Edward, the youngest Brownlee brother, never took up triathlon despite Jonny and Alistair’s exploits and prefers rugby and table tennis.
Jonny Brownlee gear
Brownlee has partnerships with a number of major brands including HUUB Design, Oakley, Adidas, Wahoo, SRAM Road, Schwalbe Tires, Zipp Speed Weaponry and OTE Sports.
He made a big change in bike sponsor at the start of 2022. After five years with SCOTT Bikes, the Brownlee brothers linked up with BMC.