I had the pleasure to see the men’s triathlon race at the Olympics in Hyde Park on Tuesday and watching Alistair and Jonny Brownlee embrace at the finish line made me wonder just what it really must be like for siblings to be successful in the same sport. On the tennis circuit, we are used to seeing the Williams sisters compete together and against each other; the Bryan brothers dominate the doubles world and the likes of Olivier and Christophe Rochus play together and on either side of the net.
John McEnroe used to say that playing with or against his brother Patrick McEnroe was more nerve-wracking than facing Ivan Lendl or Bjorn Borg. I am not sure that can be entirely true; it must be a different feeling. When they are on the court together, they probably didn’t want to let each other down but when taking each other on, especially as one was much better than the other, it was perhaps closer than usual because John, even subconsciously, may not have wanted to destroy Patrick – there was no need.
Malcolm Brown, the team leader of the GB men’s triathlon team said that Alistair, who won gold, was not the most sympathetic of older brothers and that he was probably just happy that it was Jonny and not himself who had been forced to take a penalty of 15 seconds that may or may not have cost him a shot at the silver medal.
But having both brothers on the podium will have been great for them and for their parents and having watched the Williams sisters perform so brilliantly for more than a decade now, it is clear that siblings can succeed and are not, as some would have you believe, their own worst enemies. Many of their matches – especially finals – between the two may not have been great contests, it’s true, but having each other to practice with, learn from, lean on and improve can only have been an advantage over the rest.
The Bryan brothers have lived in each other’s pockets, virtually, for more than 15 years and it is remarkable they have not fallen out, at least publicly. The fact that they are genuine, decent people must help and their parents should be hugely proud of that, aside from all their tennis exploits.
It would be quite entertaining to see a pair of brothers and/or sisters who didn’t get on with each other on the court, or around the Tour but the sheer nature of it all seems to make it unlikely. That, I would suggest, can only be a good thing.