Families produce two Olympians

Updated: August 9, 2004, 3:16 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

What does it take, really, to make the Olympics?

Is it possible to quantify the hours and hours (and hours) of practice, the almost unfathomable sweat equity required to make it happen? Can you imagine the car-pooling logistics, the truncated family vacations, the necessary sacrifice by all parties involved? The numbing myriad of factors that must align to create the elite athlete who can block the thrust of a sword, hit a tennis ball, slice through the water, tumble through the air with world-class precision?

A total of 531 athletes, culled from 46 states and 20 countries, will represent the United States at the Olympics in Athens, Greece. In a nation of nearly 300 million souls, what are the odds of being that remarkably gifted athlete? Do the monstrous math. Now, recalculate. What are the odds of having two such athletes in the same family?

Family Affair
Greg Garber looks at America's sibling sensations competing in Athens:

Bryan: Twin destinies
The Bryan twins don't always get along, but they're united in their goal to win gold.

Dumais: Perfect harmony
Justin and Troy Dumais, although brothers, didn't start out as the best of friends.

Hamm: Leading the way
Paul and Morgan Hamm hope to take U.S. men's gymnastics back to the medal podium.

Kirk: Getting along swimmingly
Tara Kirk's resume suggested she was a more logical Olympic choice than sister Dana.

Smart: Making a point
Fencers weren't exactly common in Brooklyn where Erinn and Keeth Smart grew up.

As it turns out, quite good. Maybe, upon reflection, it is not a coincidence. In all of these cases, sibling rivalry probably has inspired a higher level of excellence%dynamic tension, as it is called in the corporate model of leadership.

There are eight sets of siblings scheduled to compete for America in five different sports in Athens: Three sets of sisters, three pairs of brothers (including two sets of identical twins) and two brother-sister combos. And there is an undeniable quality to go with that quantity; realistically, the sweet 16 could bring home as many as a dozen medals.

You already know the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus. They are the defending Olympic doubles champions and Venus, the elder, won the singles competition in 2000 at Sydney. The Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, were separated by two minutes at birth 26 years ago and little else since. The No. 1 doubles team in the world is the favorite for the men's gold medal. The last time identical twins represented the U.S. in tennis? Joseph and Arthur Wear%the great-great uncles of President George W. Bush%exactly a century ago.

Swimming also has produced two sets of siblings.

The Kirk sisters, Tara and Dana, will compete in the 100-meter breaststroke and 200-meter butterfly, respectively. Being members of the U.S. team, they say, makes them favorites to medal. Klete and Kalyn Keller, who grew up in Phoenix and swam for USC, are both favored to win medals in their best disciplines, the 1,500-meter and 800-meter freestyle. The Kellers both qualified in two events and might also swim in a relay.

You want fencers? How about a fabulous four trained in that ancient swashbuckling art? Brooklyn-born Erinn and Keeth Smart will represent America in the sabre and foil. Keeth is the first man in U.S. history to achieve the No. 1 world ranking. The Jacobson sisters, Sada and Emily, finished 1-2 in saber at the national championships in April. Sada, 21 and two years older than Emily, is ranked No. 1 in the world, another American first.

Paul and Morgan Hamm, 21-year-old twins from Wisconsin, could lead the United States to gold in the men's all-around gymnastics competition. Paul is a plausible favorite for the individual all-around title.

Consider the Dumais brothers, Troy and Justin. Troy won the national three-meter springboard championship. He and older brother Justin will represent the U.S. in the synchronized three-meter springboard competition, where they have a decent chance to medal.

"One is ridiculous, two is off the charts," Troy said. "I mean, I've been to the Olympics, but this is more special because I'm sharing it with someone I've lived with my whole life."

Greg Garber is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.