Triplets and Twins at the Olympics

Three Estonian marathoners – Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik – have recently made the Olympic qualifying time for Rio and may compete at Rio. This is especially notable because the three Luik sisters are triplets. No triplets have ever competed at the Olympic Games previously, either at the same Games or at separate Olympics.

But that is not the case with twins. In fact, our database includes 200 twins that have both competed at the Olympics. Of these, 188 of them have competed at the same Olympics, so they almost always competed together. Here is the breakdown of those 188:

Twin type ###
Twin brother 127
Twin sister 53
Twin brother/sister (fraternal) 4
Twin brother (fraternal) 2
Twin sister (fraternal) 2

Please note that we try to differentiate between fraternal and identical twins in the database, but that information is not always announced or available, so the fraternal numbers above may be somewhat low. Without further information, our default listing is as identical twins, unless they are brother/sister, who must be fraternal twins.

Many of these twins have competed at the same Olympic Games several times. Here is how that breaks down:

#Games #Twins
4 Games 4
3 Games 9
2 Games 43
1 Games 132

Among the 4 Games twins are one set of twin sisters – Sharon and Shirley Firth, who competed in cross-country skiing for Canada at the 1972, 1976, 1980, and 1984 Winter Olympics. Also competing together at 4 Games are the twin brother canoeists, Pavol and Peter Hochschorner of Slovakia, who won the Canadian slalom doubles in 2000, 2004, and 2008, and added a bronze in that event in 2012. They will likely compete in Rio which will make them the first twins to compete together at 5 Olympic Games.

Basically, all of the twins have always competed in the same sport. However, Swedish twin brothers Vilhelm and Eric Carlberg are a slight anomaly. Vilhelm competed in shooting in 1906, 1908, 1912, and 1924. Eric competed in shooting at all 4 Olympics, but in 1908 he also competed in fencing, and in 1912 he competed in shooting, fencing, and modern pentathlon.

The twins have also always represented the same nation. Until recently we thought that the presumed twin brothers Steve Tikal and František Tikal played against each other in ice hockey at the 1960 Winter Olympics, with Steve competing for Australia and František competing for their native Czechoslovakia, however, more recent evidence reveals that they were not twins, as often cited.

No single sport predominates among these sets of twins, with 36 different sports represented. The top 6 sports, however, are the following:

Sport ###
Athletics 34
Rowing 22
Sailing 16
Wrestling 12
Ice Hockey 11
Swimming 10

The Luiks competing as triplets will be an Olympic first, assuming they all compete. None has approached world-class times so they will not be medal contenders, but you could be seeing Olympic history.

Mother and Son Shooters to Compete in Rio

The Georgian Olympic Committee announced recently that Nino Salukvadze would compete in shooting at the 2016 Rio Olympics ( No surprise there, as Ms. Salukvadze is one of the great female shooters of the last 30 years. A pistol shooter, this will be her 8th Olympic Games. She first competed in 1988 for the Soviet Union, and has since competed for the Unified Team in 1992, and since 1996, for Georgia. Salukvadze has won 3 Olympic medals, including a gold medal in the 1988 sport pistol.

So what’s noteworthy here? When she competes in her 8th Olympics, that will make Ms. Salukvadze only the second woman to compete in 8 Olympic Games, after German-Italian canoeist Josefa Idem-Guerrini. But far more significant is that the news release listed above also noted that Salukvadze will be competing alongside her son, Tsotne Machavariani, who has made his first Olympic team.

Salukkvadze and Machavariani will be a mother/son combo competing at the same Olympic Games and that has never before happened in Olympic history. Our database reveals 70 cases of parent/child competing at the same Olympic Games, but never a mother/son.

The most common combination is father/son, which has occurred 56 times. Father/daughters have competed at the same Olympics 12 times. And there are 2 cases of mothers/daughters competing at the same Olympics, but no mother/son prior to 2016.

The 2 mother/daughters were Mary Abbott and her daughter, Margaret Abbott, in 1900 golf; and Jessie Wadworth and her daughter, Brenda Wadworth, in 1908 archery. Those are the only 2 examples of a mother competing with their child at the same Olympic Games.

There are 2 examples of father/sons doing this 3 separate times. The first was the Swedish shooters, Oscar Swahn and his son, Alfred, who competed together at the 1912, 1920, and 1924 Olympics. In 1984-88-92, the Fijian sailors, Colin Philp, Sr., and his son, Tony competed together. Colin also competed alongside his 2 other sons, Colin, Jr., in 1988, and David, in 1992.

Of the father/daughters, Paul Elvstrøm and his daughter, Trine Elvstrøm-Myralf, uniquely did this twice, in 1984 and 1988. Four father/sons competed together at 2 Olympics. Of these, most notable is the father, Carlos de Cárdenas Culmell, a Cuban sailor, who did it with 2 different sons. In 1948-52 he competed with Carlos de Cárdenas Plá, while in 1952-56, he sailed alongside Jorge de Cárdenas.

So when Salukvadze and Machavariani compete in Rio, it will mark a first in Olympic history.