The Dutch speed skating twins Michel and Ronald Mulder have both qualified for the Sochi Olympics in the 500 m. The two are both medal hopefuls, being ranked 2nd and 5th in this season’s World Cup Standings. Twins competing in the same event at the Winter Olympics is not unique, but still relatively rare.
The first time this happened was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936. The hockey players András and László Gergely both were forwards for the Hungarian team, which ranked 7th. Sixteen years later, twins won the first Winter Olympic medal together. Swedish hockey players Hans and Stig Andersson earned a hockey bronze in 1952. The two were born with surname Andersson, but changed their names to Tvilling before the 1956 Olympics, a name meaning “Twin” in Swedish. We are not entirely sure about the 3rd pair of twins to compete at the Winter Olympics. Sources are unclear on whether František and Steve Tikal are twins or not – they certainly are brothers. Their story is interesting nonetheles, as Steve had fled communist-ruled Czechoslovakia for the West, and represented Australia while his brother still played for their mother country.
The first gold winning twins came in 1964, again in ice hockey, with Soviet twins Boris and Yevgeny Mayorov. After retiring from active sports, Boris became coach of Spartak Moscow, while Yevgeny became the team’s director. The 1964 ice hockey event was the first competition at the winter Olympics with two twins competing, as Geza and Iuliu Szabo also played for Romania. In Sapporo 1972, the first twin sisters first competed. The Firth twins would eventually contest four Olympic Winter Games together. Sharon and Shirley were both members of the Gwich’in First Nation in Canada, and later featured in a CBC documentary called “The Olympians: The Firth Sisters”. The first mixed gender twins entered in 1976, when Christian and Karin Künzle of Switzerland ranked 7th in pairs figure skating.
At the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, the best ever twin performance at the Winter Olympics came in the men’s slalom. Phil Mahre, already a silver medallist in 1980, claimed gold in the Olympic slalom. His twin brother Steve came second (after winning the first run) to produce the first 1-2 for twins in Winter Olympic history. After the Mahres, only one pair of twins has medalled: the Sedins. Henrik and Daniel helped Sweden win the 2006 hockey gold medal, equalling the performance of the Mayorovs. The Sedins have played together on the same team their entire professional career, both now being long time representatives of the Vancouver Canucks. In 1999, they won the Elitserien Player of the Year together.
The full list of twins competing in the same event at the Winter Olympics:
- András and László Gergely (Hungary) – Ice hockey 1936
- Hans and Stig Andersson-Tvilling (Sweden) – Ice hockey 1952 & 1956
- František and Steve Tikal (Czechoslovakia & Australia) – Ice hockey 1960 [twins not confirmed]
- Boris and Yevgeny Mayorov (USSR) – Ice hockey 1964
- Geza and Iuliu Szabo (Romania) – Ice hockey 1964 & 1968
- Christer and Thommy Abrahamsson (Sweden) – Ice hockey 1972
- Sharon and Shirley Firth (Canada) – Cross country skiing 1972 (5 km, relay), 1976 (5 km, 10 km, relay), 1980 (5 km) & 1984 (5 km, 10 km, 20 km)
- Christian and Karin Künzle (Switzerland) – Figure skating 1976 (pairs)
- Phil and Steve Mahre (USA) – Alpine skiing 1976 (giant slalom), 1980 (slalom, giant slalom) & 1984 (slalom, giant slalom)
- Dorota and Małgorzata Tlałka-Mogore (Poland) – Alpine skiing 1984 (slalom)
- Antonia and Ferdinand Becherer (West Germany) – Figure skating 1988 (pairs)
- Catarina and Christina Eklund (Sweden) – Biathlon 1994 (7.5 km, 15 km)
- Dmitry and Stanislav Dubrovsky (Russia) – Nordic combined 1994 (individual)
- Kenji and Tsugiharu Ogiwara (Japan) – Nordic combined 1998 (individual, team)
- Melanie and Maureen de Lange (Netherlands) – Short-track speed skating 1998 (relay)
- Ben and Matt Hindle (Canada) – Bobsleigh 1998 (four-man)
- François and Maurice Rozenthal (France) – Ice hockey 1998 & 2002
- Nataliya and Vera Zyatikova (Belarus) – Cross-country skiing 2002 (10 km, 15 km, pursuit, relay)
- Lanny and Tracy Barnes (USA) – Biathlon 2006 (15 km, relay)
- Daniel and Henrik Sedin (Sweden) – Ice hockey 2006 & 2010
- Julia and Stefanie Marty (Switzerland) – Ice hockey 2006 & 2010
- Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux (USA) – Ice hockey 2010
- Laura and Sara Benz (Switzerland) – Ice hockey 2010
- Valj and Vita Semerenko (Ukraine) – Biathlon 2010 (7.5 km, 10 km, 15 km, relay)