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From the Kolehmainens to the Ingebrigtsens: eight outstanding sibling acts

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To mark National Sibling Day on 10 April, we remember some of the remarkable feats by some outstanding sibling acts over the decades, starting with the Kolehmainens and ending on a Nordic note with the Ingebrigtsens.

Willi, Taavetti and Hannes Kolehmainen

While Norway has the Ingebrigtsens, Finland had the Kolehmainen brothers. The youngest of the brothers Hannes was by far the most successful and remains one of the most revered in Finnish distance running history, winning four Olympic gold medals in 1912 and 1920 and setting world records over 3000m and 5000m.

His older brothers also set world bests in their careers. Taavetti, who also competed at the 1912 and 1920 Olympics, set a world best over 20,000m in 1913 while Willi ran a marathon world best on a track of 2:29:39.2 in 1912.

Tamara and Irina Press

Theories continue to abound about Irina and Tamara Press' sudden disappearance from the international scene in 1966 but the sisters left an indelible mark on the sport in the decade prior to their departure, setting 26 world records as a pair. Tamara won the shot put and discus titles at both the 1962 European Championships and 1964 Olympics while Irina, who passed away in 2004, won the 80m hurdles title in 1960 and the inaugural pentathlon title in 1964.

Sergey and Vasiliy Bubka

Sergey Bubka broke the world record in the pole vault some 35 times and won an unmatched six successive world titles between 1983 and 1997 but his older brother Vasiliy - while undoubtedly overshadowed by Sergey’s exploits - was still a very capable pole vaulter in his own right.

Sergey and Vasiliy won gold and silver for the Soviet Union at the 1986 European Championships in Stuttgart, clearing 5.85m and 5.75m respectively to surpass the previous championship record. Competing for Ukraine in the same arena seven years later, both Sergey and Vasiliy reached the World Championships final in Stuttgart where Sergey won his fourth successive title.

Domingos and Dionisio Castro

Domingos Castro won silver in the 5000m at the 1987 World Championships but he is arguably most remembered for his crushing performance at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul where he was run down on the line by eventual silver and bronze medallists Dieter Baumann and Hansjorg Kunze. His twin brother Dionisio suffered a similar fate two years later, missing out on the one hour world record by a mere one metre.

But despite these near misses, Domingos and Dionisio were stalwarts on Portuguese international team in the 1980s and 1990s. Domingos competed at four successive Olympics from 1988 to 2000 and Dionisio was also part of the Portuguese contingent in 1988 and 1992.

Ryta and Alesya Turava

The Turava sisters each came home from the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg with a gold medal in their hand luggage. Ryta romped to victory in the 20km race walk before older sister Alesya, a former 1500m specialist, claimed gold in the inaugural edition of the 3000m steeplechase inside the Ullevi Stadium.

At 25 and 26 years old respectively, Ryta and Alesya should have been approaching their prime but their success in Gothenburg was surprisingly their last hurrah on the international scene. Alesya didn’t compete again after dropping out of the heats at the 2007 World Championships while Ryta’s last competition of any significance was a tenth-place finish at the 2008 Olympics.

Robert and Christoph Harting

Hampered by injury, reigning Olympic discus champion Robert Harting didn’t make it through qualifying at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Few would have given his younger brother Christoph, who had only finished fourth at the European Championships the previous month, much chance of succeeding Robert but Christoph was steadfast in his conviction that he would one day triumph at the Olympics.

“It is not something I ever doubted; if you doubt, you will fail. I like to live by the quote, ‘doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will’. And so I set about in my mission to win Olympic gold,” he said.

Jonathan, Kevin, Dylan and Olivia Borlee

Identical twins Jonathan and Kevin Borlee have been mainstays on Belgium’s 4x400m relay team for more than a decade but the family medal haul was opened by older sister Olivia at the 2008 Olympic Games. Belgium initially won silver in the 4x100m relay but they were subsequently promoted to gold after initial winners Russia was disqualified for a doping violation.

With Jonathan and Kevin to the helm - and Dylan joining the team in earnest in 2013 - Belgium has won five European indoor and outdoor 4x400m titles. After a litany of near misses on the global stage, the Belgian Tornadoes made a richly deserved breakthrough at the 2019 World Championships in Doha where they won their first global outdoor medal with bronze.

Jonathan and Kevin might be reaching the latter stages of their careers but the Borlees could still be represented on the international stage in the years to come by their half-brother Rayane who competed at the 2018 World U20 Championships in Tampere.

Henrik, Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen

A middle distance final at the European Championships over the last decade has seldom concluded without an Ingebrigtsen somewhere on the rostrum. All three brothers have won the European outdoor 1500m title since 2012 and the triumvirate all reached the final in the 1500m at the 2018 European Championships and the 5000m at the 2019 World Championships.

The Ingebrigtsens almost single-handedly helped Norway to the top of the medal table at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg as well. Jakob won gold medals in both the U20 individual and team races while Filip was the surprise winner of the individual senior title.

And it might not be too long until we see their younger sister Ingrid competing in the U20 race at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships either.