The Olympians

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Venus (left) and Serena Williams

The Olympians: Olympic Siblings

August 21, 2008
by Isabel Cowles
What could make a parent prouder than watching a child compete in the Olympics? How about watching two—or four—make it to Beijing? This year, several sets of siblings have qualified to compete: unfortunately for some parents, they’re not always on the same team.

Matt and Shane Reed (Triathlon)

Matt and Shane Reed are both competing in the triathlon this year, but for different countries. Matt represents the United States, while Shane is vying for New Zealand. Born in New Zealand, the boys moved to Australia when they were young, because it offered superior training and competition in swimming. After Matt fell in love with his American wife, Kelly Rees, he moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he was invited to join the U.S. triathlon team. Shane first competed for Australia, but later switched to New Zealand.

Matt says on the NBC Olympics Web site, “It’s just amazing if you can get to the Olympics just by yourself but to have another family member in the Olympics in the same event, it’ll be something that we’ll cherish forever.”

Keeth and Erinn Smart (Fencing)

When Keeth and Erinn Smart signed on for Beijing 2008, neither the U.S. Men’s Saber nor the U.S. Women’s Foil Teams had medaled for decades. The siblings had faced serious setbacks in life as well. The siblings lost their father in 2005, and their mother died in May. In April, Keeth almost died of a rare blood disease, but recovered after weeks of intensive care and the constant support of his sister. The siblings defied expectations by each winning a silver medal for the United States. “I’m proud of my medal, but I’m even more proud of Erinn’s,” Keeth said. “It’s the best ending in the world.”
Erinn believes her silver medal is a “shared achievement.” She said, “This is what [my parents] wanted. They wanted us to finally medal. It feels like a family medal to me.”

Steven, Mark and Diana Lopez (Taekwondo)

Steven, 29, Mark, 25 and Diana, 23 are the first trio of siblings to compete together since 1904. Known as the “First Family of Taekwondo,” Steven, Mark and Diana are coached by their eldest brother, Jean, a two-time Pan-American Taekwondo champion. Referring to the Lopez triple qualification for the Olympics, Jean said, “I think you have a better chance of winning the lotto than having something like this happen."

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Diana Lopez spoke about the unique situation: “I wish I were someone else at this moment to see in and to appreciate it, just to see people making history. I know that if I were to look in and see three siblings on the Olympic team with their oldest brother as head coach, I would think, man, that’s so cool.”

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Rowing)

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are twins who first set foot in a boat their freshman year of high school. They went to Harvard together and continued their rowing career, qualifying for the Beijing Olympics this summer. Cameron, Tyler and a friend also founded ConnectU, a college social networking site, and claim that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook stole their idea.

Barbra Matson of the Boston Globe explains what it’s like to watch the twins row: “Their strokes are identical, but mirror images: lefthanded Cameron pulls the oar on the starboard side from the bow seat and righthanded Tyler pulls the oar on the port side and steers, moving the rudder with his foot on a toeplate. Their bodies, carbon copies, move like an assembly line.”

Bob and Mike Bryan (Tennis)

Bob and Mike Bryan are tennis-playing twins whose parents were both tennis instructors. Bob is left-handed and Mike is right-handed, making them a perfect pair for doubles. According to the NBC Olympics Web site, “They’ve won the Australian Open twice and the other three Grand Slam events once. Last year they swept all four of their Davis Cup matches to help the United States win the title for the first time since 1995.”

Bob and Mike Bryan’s official Web site announces their bronze medal win includes photos, biographical information and more.

Venus and Serena Williams (Tennis)

Venus and Serena Williams are perhaps the best-known pair of Olympic siblings. This year, the duo walked away with a gold in doubles. After they won, Venus announced, “I’m so excited, I can’t even speak.”

The Williams sisters’ official Web site includes pictures, biographical information and details of recent wins.

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