Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ten Excellent Sets of Twin Athletes

I was going to call this "top ten twin athletes", but then I realized it would be confusing about whether I was talking about ten or twenty total athletes (or just ten athletes who had potentially non-athlete twins). Also, I dropped the "top", since this list is inherently subjective.

  • Honorable Mention: Bengt and Björn Zikarsky -- The Zikarskys won bronze medals for Germany in the 4x100m freestyle swimming relay at the 1996 Olympics. Bengt also won a bronze in the same event in 1992. Nice job, but I need to see better than bronze to make the list.
  • Honorable Mention: Pascal and Patrick Barré -- the Barré brothers won bronze medals for France in the 4x100m track and field relay at the 1980 Olympics.
  • Honorable Mention:  Marianne and Mildred Muis -- the Muis sisters won silver for the Netherlands in the 4x100m freestyle swimming relay at the 1988 Olympics.
  • Honorable Mention: Terry and Tom Brands -- Tom won gold in wrestling at the 1996 Olympics; Terry won bronze in 2000. Impressive -- particularly since each won an individual event -- but not the most accomplished set of twin wrestlers.
  • Honorable Mention: Michael and Mark Evans won gold for Canada in the 1984 Olympics on their rowing eights team. Again, impressive -- but there is a more accomplished set of rowing twins.
  • Honorable Mention: Herbert and Wilfred Baddeley won the Wimbledon doubles championship four times in the 1890s. Wilfred won the singles title three times. That makes them world-class athletes, but they are knocked out of the ten by an even more accomplished pair of twin tennis players.
  • Honorable Mention: Alisa and Mirjana Marić. If "sports of the mind" were, you know, actually sports, these two would be a shoo-in. As it is, the only pair of twins to hold the title "woman grandmaster" will have to do as an accomplishment.
  • #10: Marcus and Markieff Morris are basketball players. They make the list on potential more than anything else. After three years at the University of Kansas, they were chosen (consecutively) in the first round of the NBA draft last month.
  • #9: Morgan and Paul Hamm -- Paul Hamm won two silvers and a gold in gymnastics at the 2004 Olympics; Morgan won a team silver the same year.
  • #8: Toomas and Tõnu Tõniste -- Not only did they win one of the last Silver medals for the Soviet Union in sailing in 1988, they won one of the first Bronzes for Estonia in 1992. Toomas is now a member of the Estonian Parliament.
  • #7: Georgina Earl and Caroline Meyer -- The Evers-Swindell sisters (their birth names) rowed to gold for New Zealand in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Twins, double sculls, two gold medals...I sense a pattern here.
  • #6: Phil and Steve Mahre -- Phil is the more famous of the two, pulling down two gold and silver skiing medals in the 1980 and 1984 Winter Olympics. But Steve was no slouch -- the only reason he came home with silver rather than gold in 1984 was the 0.21 seconds that separated him from his brother in the slalom.
Ski heil auf dem Corvatsch
Phil and Steve Mahre, photo by
Chris Schaer

  • #5: Anatoli and Sergei Belaglazov -- Sergei wrestled to gold in 1980 and 1988 for the Soviets, while Anatoli picked up a gold of his own in 1980.
  •  #4: Daniel and Henrik Sedin -- Not only do the Sedin twins share a gold medal for playing on Sweden's 2006 hockey team, but they came close to an NHL championship this year as captain and alternate captain for the Vancouver Canucks. Recognition is due to them not only for being valued individual contributors on a world-class level (c.f. #10), but for bringing their talents together on a team.
The Sedins
The Sedin Brothers, photo by Matt Boulton

  • #3: Tiki and Ronde Barber -- Although Tiki has gotten recognition here for his evil twinness, there's no denying his athletic ability -- 3-time Pro Bowl selection and New York Giants all-time leading rusher. But while Tiki tries to make his NFL comeback, Ronde has stayed in the NFL and collected 5 Pro Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl ring. All the while staying married to his wife, Claudia.
  • #2: Kaokor and Khaosai Galaxy -- Khaosai Galaxy defended his WBA super flyweight boxing championship 19 times, 16 by knockout. Kaokor, while not as great as his brother, won the bantamweight title two separate times. Two world champions? Pretty impressive.
    • #1: Bob and Mike Bryan -- While I reserve most of my awe for twins with individual honors (where it's clear one twin is not just riding the coattails of the others), the Bryan twins take things to a whole 'nother level. As mirror twins, they are able to split the tennis court effectively -- Bob plays left-handed, Mike right-handed. Twinness seems to give them a unique advantage and has powered them to 11 tennis Grand Slam men's doubles titles -- most recently this weekend at Wimbledon. But lest you think they only have twin power, think again -- Bob has two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, and Mike has seven.  Probably the best doubles tennis team of all time, and definitely #1 on this list.
usopen2008 038
The Bryan Twins, photo by Revanta Banerji

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