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Meet the sparring siblings who are battling for Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics

Hair pulling, battles over Lego and worms down the back of shirts. Oh yes, there’s nothing like sibling rivarly. Imagine then, what it must have been like over the years for a group of parents whose offspring are gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics.

There are nine sets of siblings taking part, including three sets of twins. Yet according to them, speaking exclusively to Femail, that super-competitive instinct, combined with fierce loyalty and love, will give the team extra edge as they seek to bring home the medals.

Spurred on by the squabbles

Rowers Mathilda, 26, and Charlotte, 24, Hodgkins-Byrne, from St Weonards, Herefordshire:

The Hodgkins-Byrne sisters have been competing with one another since they were babies, says mum Kathryn.

‘When Mathilda first met baby Charlotte she asked for her to be ‘sent back’,’ recalled Kathryn. ‘And there was one unforgettable Mother’s Day when they were fighting over a bead. Charlotte said, ‘It’s mine!’ and stuck it up her nose. A&E and a tricky procedure followed.’

That rivalry spurs them on today: ‘They are always eyeing each other’s scores and pushing each other on,’ says Kathryn. ‘I’d definitely want to be in their team.’

Love won’t get in the way as we go for gold

Hurdling sisters Tiffany Porter, 33, and Cindy Sember, 26.

Given the hurdles they have had to overcome, it is a minor miracle that 100m sprint hurdlers Tiffany Porter and Cindy Sember have made it into another Olympics together.

The American-born sisters, who have dual US-UK nationality thanks to their British mother, competed for Britain in the 2016 Olympics. Cindy came fourth but in 2017 suffered a ruptured achilles tendon, which could have spelt the end of her career. And Tiffany had a baby girl two years ago.

Above all, the sisters each want to win in Tokyo, and won’t let sibling love stand in their way.

‘We’re competitors so my goal is always to beat her like everyone else,’ Cindy has said.

The formidable power of sisters

Track and field runners the Williams sisters, Jodie, 27, and Hannah, 23, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

Track and field runners the Williams sisters, Jodie, 27, and Hannah, 23, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Jodie was just eight when, after triumphing at school sports day, she set her heart on becoming an Olympic athlete.

Meanwhile Hannah, ‘a typical younger sibling’, according to mum Christine decided that anything her big sis could do, she could do, too.

Fast forward almost two decades and Jodie, who was part of Team GB at the Rio Olympics, will be competing in the 400m while she and Hannah will both take part in the 400m relay.

Christine, who’s in her 50s, recalls: ‘Jodie had an amazing mind-set and that’s been an inspiration for Hannah.’

However, the Williams sisters’ relationship is not without rivalry.

‘I think I’ve still got it at the moment, but in the next couple of years she’s gonna overtake me,’ Jodie said.

We even race to finish medals 

Rowers the Ford siblings Tom, 29, and Emily, 26, from Holmes Chapel, Cheshire.

The main entertainment for the other members of their rowing crews must surely be the banter between Tom and Emily Ford.

After it was announced that both had landed seats in Team GB’s ‘eights’, Emily wasted no time teasing her big brother publicly. ‘He was quite a chubby little boy. Then he stopped having cream cakes for breakfast. Seriously, he’s had to really fight for what he’s earned and I’m very proud of him.’

The duo have two older brothers. ‘All four of us were very competitive. We’d see who could finish first at teatime,’ says Emily.  

Can the judges tell us apart ?

Gymnast twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova, 16, from Aylesbury, Bucks.

The 20 minutes between Jessica getting the long-awaited call to say she had made Team GB’s four-woman Olympic gymnast squad and twin Jennifer receiving hers, must have felt interminable.

‘James [Thomas, British Gymnastics Performance Director] asked me how would I feel to be an Olympian. I said, ‘Oh, that would be so cool’, then everyone burst into tears,’ Jennifer said.

One big challenge for the judges in Tokyo will be telling the sisters apart as the only discernible difference between them is a small freckle on Jessica’s forehead. They have very different personalities, however. Jennifer describes herself as the ‘quiet one’ and her sister as the ‘loud one’. 

Gymnast twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova, 16, from Aylesbury, Bucks. The 20 minutes between Jessica getting the long-awaited call to say she had made Team GB's four-woman Olympic gymnast squad and twin Jennifer receiving hers, must have felt interminable

Gymnast twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova, 16, from Aylesbury, Bucks. The 20 minutes between Jessica getting the long-awaited call to say she had made Team GB’s four-woman Olympic gymnast squad and twin Jennifer receiving hers, must have felt interminable

In the pool, we’re rivals 

A lifelong drive to beat one another may be why both Litchfield brothers landed places in Team GB

A lifelong drive to beat one another may be why both Litchfield brothers landed places in Team GB

Swimming Litchfield brothers Max, 26, and Joe, 22, from Pontefract, West Yorkshire.

A lifelong drive to beat one another may be why both Litchfield brothers landed places in Team GB.

In a Zoom call with the Mail from Japan this week, Max said: ‘It’s not a bad thing because we’re always making each other faster.’

So what was it like for Max, who finished fourth in the 400m individual medley at Rio 2016, to be beaten in the qualifers by his little brother? 

‘The first thing Max said to me was ‘you just qualified for the Olympics,’ says Joe. 

‘He didn’t dwell on the fact that he hadn’t yet qualified.’

We had to be pulled apart

The boys have been knocking seven bells out of each other since the age seven, at a boxing club in Birtley. Proud parents Michelle and Martin, have been at the ringside throughout

The boys have been knocking seven bells out of each other since the age seven, at a boxing club in Birtley. Proud parents Michelle and Martin, have been at the ringside throughout

Boxing twins Pat and Luke McCormack, 26, from Washington, Tyne and Wear:

‘We’re not allowed to spar any more because it gets out of hand too easily — as soon as he hits me with a good shot I want to hit him with a better shot and it just turns into a war.’ 

That’s how Pat once described his relationship with twin Luke. ‘The coach has had to get in the ring at times to pull us apart. I always want to do better than him but I still want him to do well — it’s definitely a friendly rivalry.’

The boys have been knocking seven bells out of each other since the age seven, at a boxing club in Birtley. Proud parents Michelle and Martin, have been at the ringside throughout.

‘We’re bursting with pride,’ said Michelle, 53, who works for the NHS. ‘They’re great friends and a great support to one another.

‘Throughout their careers they’ve always celebrated the other’s victories. When Pat got through to the Olympic qualifiers he seemed more excited about the fact that Luke had already qualified.’

These identical twins have been racing since the day the stabilisers were taken off their toddler bikes

These identical twins have been racing since the day the stabilisers were taken off their toddler bikes

From Moors to the podium

Cycling twins Simon and Adam Yates, 28, from Bury, Lancashire.

These identical twins have been racing since the day the stabilisers were taken off their toddler bikes.

‘We’d get home from school, get something to eat, then go out round here (the West Pennine moors) with lights on in the pitch black,’ Adam has said. ‘Two hours, in the freezing cold.’

‘You’re not training when you first start,’ he continued. ‘You’re just out riding. Then you start edging wheels in front . . .’

Their father, John, took them to Manchester Velodrome where they began competing.

Adam was fourth in the 2016 Tour de France, bagging the coveted white jersey for best young rider — an honour awarded to Simon in 2017.

…And the Magnificent Murrays 

Tennis brothers Andy Murray, 34, and Jamie, 35, from Dunblane, Scotland.

Wimbledon champion Andy may be the household name but when they were growing up, brother Jamie was the one to beat.

His 15-month age advantage meant that at golf, football, table tennis, squash and, of course, tennis, Andy was always playing catch-up. ‘

Jamie was bigger and stronger and better than me at most things. He was smarter than me,’ Andy has admitted.

While Andy won the Wimbledon men’s finals in 2013 and 2016, Jamie was not initially selected for this year’s Team GB. 

But after Dan Evans, the British doubles number one, tested positive for Covid, he was called on to step in and team up with Neal Skupski. Jamie has competed in three previous Olympics.

Tennis brothers Andy Murray, 34, and Jamie, 35, from Dunblane, Scotland. Wimbledon champion Andy may be the household name but when they were growing up, brother Jamie was the one to beat

Tennis brothers Andy Murray, 34, and Jamie, 35, from Dunblane, Scotland. Wimbledon champion Andy may be the household name but when they were growing up, brother Jamie was the one to beat

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