- Greg Garber, Writer, Reporter
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Synchronized diving, despite its twisting, turning physicality, is a matter of the mind: two athletes on a single, tenuous wavelength.
They must be perfectly in synch. Their body type, flexibility and style must be aesthetic match to suit the demanding and subjective judges. What better way to succeed than to pair two divers with the same double-helixed DNA?
Unless, of course, the two brothers spent the better part of two decades banging heads in a classic case of sibling rivalry. Familiarity, at least in the case of Troy and Justin Dumais, bred a contempt that sometimes approached hatred.
"Before college," Justin said, "we were just competitors with the same last name. Brothers was a stretch."
"A lot of times," Troy said, "it was his way or the highway. We had to learn to set aside being brothers and make it our goal to win a gold medal. When people say they can do it, well, doing it is a lot harder. For my brother, it was realizing he has to work on his relationship with someone else -- that might not always be something he wants to be working on."
Troy's example is the bickering Los Angeles Lakers -- in reverse.
"In a team sport, you have to set aside your differences. With Kobe and Shaq, the first couple of years, they put those differences aside and they won. Then it got to the point where they couldn't do that. You saw what happened this year.
"We started that way and now we're working together pretty well."
The goal is to win the gold medal in the 3-meter synchronized springboard diving competition. They are one of eight pairs already qualified for the final. While China, Russia and Australia are favored to medal, the Dumais brothers are not exactly a long shot. Justin, 25 -- he turns 26 next week -- and Troy, 24, will compete on Aug. 16. Then, after a week off, Troy will participate in the individual 3-meter springboard competition. Troy and 10-meter performer Laura Wilkinson probably have the best chance to medal among America's 11-athlete diving contingent. If they fail, it would be the first time since 1912 that the U.S. failed to win at least one medal in diving.
The Dumais brothers were born outside of Los Angeles, the first two of five children. Father Marc was a professional French Canadian hockey player and the athletic genes were passed on. In order, Justin, Troy, Brice, Dwight and Leanne were all named Southern Pacific Diver of the Year in their respective age divisions in 1994. Really, they didn't have much choice. The pool was more than an hour away by car, so it was all or nothing. The effort paid off; the first four children all went to college on diving scholarships and Dwight is expected to follow course.
Although Justin is 13 months older, in recent years Troy has posted better results. Troy, at 5-foot-6, 160 pounds, was more intense than his 5-7, 145-pound brother. In the 1992 Speedo National Junior Diving Championships, 12-year-old Troy was the winner in the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform events. Justin was 13th, 8th and 10th -- remarkable for a national competition, but not quite as good as his younger brother.
In the 2000 Olympic trials, Justin qualified for Sydney by finishing second in the 3-meter springboard and the synchronized event. Troy was 13th, but just missed with a fifth-place in the platform, one spot ahead of Justin. Troy placed sixth in the Olympic 3-meter and sixth in synchro with David Pichler.
"It's so weird to me because where I was hoping my brother would make it (in 2000)," Troy said, "it didn't happen at that time. This time, we helped each other. I couldn't have done it without him and he couldn't do it without me. We worked hard to set aside those brother problems and family issues -- there was just a ton of these little things -- and it made a really big difference."
Justin, who began his college career at USC, graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average from the University of Texas in Austin and was the class valedictorian. It is not surprising, considering the time he spends airborne, he is a licensed pilot and plans to fly jets for the Air Force Reserve after the Olympics. Tellingly, Troy's biography says his diving goals are to win gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. The two have been training together for the past several years at The Woodlands in Houston, Texas -- with emphasis on the word together.
In December, when Justin was diagnosed with Graves disease, he was so tired he had difficulty getting out of bed. Justin's weakness, which cost him 15 pounds and hundreds of hours of training, helped bring both brothers out of their self-centered orbits.
"Synchro is based on togetherness," Troy said. "We've been working on it our whole life, so it's stuff like that that's going to put us over the top. Say we do just something that's average, we should win a medal. But if we do what we are capable of doing, I don't see why we can't win it. In an event with judges, anything can happen.
"I'll tell you right now, we'll give it our best."
Greg Garber is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
Justin and Troy Dumais, although brothers, didn't exactly start out as the best of friends.