Brownlee brothers: A healthy dose of sibling rivalry
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to feel quite choked up when the Brownlee brothers met each other at the finishing line of the Triathlon. The thought of winning an Olympic medal and having your brother there to share it with was a little too much for me. I’ll admit I had to sneak off to the toilets to touch up my smudged makeup.
As a twin, I am blessed with an incredibly close relationship with my sibling. However, rivalry between us is often our biggest downfall.
Twin rivalry manifests itself in more ways than mere competition. My twin sister and I are obsessed with fairness. In ‘Twinland’ everything from food, clothes and money to our parents’ love and attention must be shared out equally. We even used to eat Hula Hoops one by one at exactly the same time, just to make sure that one twin didn’t have more crisps than the other.
If our mum compliments me on my outfit, Lydia will glance over, impatient for a compliment of her own, because in ‘Twinland’ compliments must be shared out equally. As we’ve grown up, we’ve realised that other siblings don’t abide by the same rules as ‘Twinland’. If Serena Williams wins Wimbledon, Venus doesn’t receive a trophy as well. Nor does Ed Miliband let David lead the Labour party at weekends, just to make things fair. Although perhaps he should.
Time and time again my mum has had to reiterate to us that the world isn’t fair, that compliments are never shared out equally and that sometimes, just sometimes, my outfits are simply better than Lydia’s.
But what of the twins competing in the Olympics? Twins make great teams. China’s Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting and Argentina’s Etel and Sofia Sánchez are all competing in synchronized swimming, the former as part of a team and the latter as a duo. Rowers Grant and Ross James competed in the men’s eight for the United States. Both sports require impeccable timing and communication with your team mate, skills which come naturally to twins or close siblings.
However, twins also fight to be seen as individuals. Belgian brothers Jonathan and Kévin Borlée are sprinters. They are part of the men’s 4×400m relay team, but they also raced against each other in the men’s 400m, coming in fifth and sixth respectively, with only 200ths of a second between them. How must it feel to know your brother could snatch glory from your hands?
The Brownlee brothers are not twins, there are two years between them. But they live and train together. With this in mind, I wonder how they felt about competing for the same prize. Do the rules of ‘Twinland’ apply here? There was only one gold medal to be won, and as far as I know the medals can’t be split down the middle like a KitKat.
It’s not easy for anyone to accept that their sibling might be better than them. Nevertheless, yesterday’s race would have been very different if Alistair had hung back for his brother, jogging on the spot while Johnny waited out his 15 seconds in the penalty box. It was, after all, a competition. Johnny even said afterwards, “I saw the board with number 31 on it and thought my brother had got a penalty. I thought ‘What an idiot Alistair, you’ve got a penalty’. Then I looked at my arm and realised I was number 31.” The Brownlee’s may claim to be a team, but let’s not sugar coat the facts. Each brother wanted to win.
Maybe the only thing better than sharing success with a sibling, is not sharing success with a sibling. Sometimes we crave to be recognised in our own right. While we should applaud Johnny’s bronze coloured success, we shouldn’t shy away from celebrating Alistair’s golden glory. Brother or no brother, Alistair was better on the day. In sport, as is often the case in life, it’s not about fairness. It’s about whoever gets to the finishing line first.Tagged in: Brownlee brothers, Etel and Sofia Sánchez, gold, Jiang Wenwen and Jiang Tingting, Jonathan and Kévin Borlée, London 2012, olympics, sibling rivalry, Sport, triathlon, twins
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