Biathlon is unique in the numbers of siblings who compete in the sport. You can find examples of other brothers and sisters competing in the same sport like the Williams sisters and Murray brothers in tennis, the Marquez and Espargaro brothers in Moto GP and the Ferdinand and Neville brothers in football and in cross-country skiing we have the Cologna and Northug brothers too.
However for the sheer volume of siblings competing together I don’t think any other sport can compete with biathlon. Currently we have the Fourcade brothers, the Windisch brothers, the 3 Gasparin sisters, the Bø brothers, Shipulin and Kuzmina, and even the Semerenko twins from the Ukraine to name but a few. Not forgetting top brother and sister combination Lars and Tora Berger.
Why is this? Several reasons come to mind. Firstly the family. If you grow up in family who enjoy winter sports or in an area where winter sports are popular then of course the chances of all the children taking part are greater. Secondly if you have an older sibling who is good at a sport then maybe the younger child would like to copy them or maybe it’s just easier to take all the kids to the same training lessons. Another reason is that if for example if the children are twins or very similar in physique or character it may be that they are all suited to excelling in the same sport. Whatever the reasons are biathlon seems to have benefited from the amount of siblings taking part in the sport. The Fourcades and Bergers in particular have been very successful.
But what is it like competing against your brother or sister? On the plus side you have someone you know very well who you can train and travel with. Biathletes spend a lot of time away from home and it’s nice to take your family with you. You have a great support system on hand, someone who knows when to help you or to leave you alone. There is also an increased sense of competition as everyone loves to beat their brother or sister at something so it can be a great motivator. The relays provide an opportunity to compete together and I can imagine it would be an amazing feeling to win a gold medal with a member of your family.
On the other hand you have to spend a lot of time together and depending on how good your relationship is that could be a strain. It’s also a lot easier to take out feelings of frustration on your family rather than your teammates which could cause problems both for your family and the team. There is always one sibling who will do better than the other one. For a brother and sister this wouldn’t cause too many problems as they are not competing directly against each other. But what about brothers or sisters? Martin Fourcade is more successful than Simon but whenever they are on the podium together Simon has always finished ahead of his brother. Something he seems extremely happy about! It cannot be easy to see a sibling, especially a younger one, outperform you in a sport that you did first.
Personally I like the fact that there are so many siblings in Biathlon. It gives the sport a family feel and whether you are successful or not it’s all relative – brothers and sisters are for life not just for biathlon!