An Incredible Triathlon Lesson


The summer was dominated with the great spectacle of the Rio Olympics.  An opportunity to see athletes in peak fitness, the very best competed to become crowned as champions.

 Undoubtedly one of the highlights of Rio Olympics was the Triathlon event which was dominated by two brothers from Yorkshire in England, Alistair Brownlee who won the event and his brother Jonny who was silver medallist. This week saw them compete in the Triathlon World series in Mexico. A gruelling  1.5km swim, followed by a 40km cycle and finally a 10km run all under the most hot and humid conditions. The event shouldn’t have made the headlines, and the video of them finishing no one would have expected to go viral, yet it did due to the unprecedented manner in which they completed the race.

With 700m to the finish line disaster struck Jonny who was on the verge of winning the race. He was totally dehydrated due to the intensity of the 33 degree heat and suffering from exhaustion. His legs started to wobble so much so that it became clear he simply couldn’t carry on. His brother Alistair together with the other runners were catching him up and Jonny was frozen to the spot his legs wouldn’t move.  His brother Alistair was faced with a moral dilemma and had to make a split decision. Should he continue to race past his struggling brother to the finish line, there were medical staff on hand to assist him and thereby win the race or to give up on his personal ambition and   help his brother finish the race. Despite training and preparing for the last year to win and being intensely competitive it wasn’t a question in Alistair’s mind as he recounted later. He put his brother’s arm around his neck and arm in arm he carried his brother over the finish line, enabling them to finish second and third respectively. The cameras and the world’s media clambered around them as they collapsed to the ground ignoring the new champion. This was something unprecedented, there was even an unsuccessful appeal to have Jonny disqualified for having an unfair advantage at being helped by his brother.

Reflecting from his hospital bed after the race Jonny Brownlee said ““Alistair had the chance to win but threw that away to help me out, I’ll be thankful for the rest of my life.

“Obviously it takes a very strong and good person to do that. Sometimes in sport we talk about winning being the most important thing in the world. A lot of times it is, but maybe helping a brother out was more important.”

As we approach Rosh Hashanah, it is a welcome opportunity for reflection and introspection on the lives we lead. The long blast of the Shofar symbolises that drive and ambition to achieve and accomplish our potential our goals and dreams. But whilst doing so it is punctured by the Teruah the broken crying sound, symbolising the cry for help and assistance from others. It is crucial for us to consider as we approach Rosh Hashanah whether we have struck the right balance in our lives. The balance between the Tekiah and Teruah between focusing on self -achievement and stopping along that path of personal accomplishment to assist others to hear their cry for help. Ensuring that we both are driven to achieve and grow spiritually in the year as well as giving a helping hand to supporting others will ensure as a nation we are all winners this coming year.

This article  was first published on

Published by Rabbi Piny Hackenbroch

Rabbi Piny Hackenbroch is currently the Senior Rabbi in Woodside Park Synagogue – a modern orthodox thriving community of some 1,400 members. His innate love for people and his empowering brand of leadership make him a well-loved figure in Woodside Park & London.

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