Reporting Steve Grzanich
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LONDON (CBS) – They conquered Boy Scouts together, took up competitive shooting together and they earned engineering degrees together at the same school.
So it should come as no surprise that Grant and Ross James compete side by side on the U.S. Men’s rowing team at the 2012 Olympics.
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“We’ve done a lot of the same things growing up,” said Grant James who is four-minutes older than his twin brother. “We played baseball growing up and we got into high-powered rifle marksmanship and were competitive shooters through high school and college. We get along pretty well so that makes life a little easier.”
They are fraternal twins but the James brothers, 24, look a lot alike. They both stand about 6’5 tall and have broad shoulders and long arms, attributes help them excel at rowing. They still consider DeKalb their hometown even though they now live Chula Vista, California. Their mother, Cindy, still lives in DeKalb and their Aunt and Uncle live in Sycamore.
As young boys, the James brothers were inseparable.
“We did a lot of outdoor stuff and we were usually pretty active outside with rock climbing, whitewater rafting and things that kept us busy,” said Ross James. “We’ve had a lot of similar experiences.”
The brothers’ parallel lives have taken them to the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre at Dorney Lake west of London where they are competing in the Men’s Eight. They even sit next to each other. On Saturday, Team USA finished second behind Germany in the preliminary heat and automatically advanced to the final on Wednesday.
“I think we have a good shot, I think everyone does,” said Grant. “I think if we perform we have a good shot at a medal and that’s what we’re going there for, the medal.”
“The field is actually pretty tight. Everyone there is a contender for a medal and no one is slow,” said Ross. “Germany is probably the favorite because they haven’t lost a race in three years but everyone is right there and it’s going to come down to a couple tenths of second. We’re hoping to be right there to get ourselves to the podium.”
The James brothers consider themselves fortunate to be competing together in the Olympics. They think Team USA is better off as well because of the unique attributes they bring as brothers and teammates.
“It might just have something to do with the twin dynamic,” said Grant. “We feed off each other and for rowing you have to get guys in a boat and they really have to match up exactly. Having two people who are the same body types really helps and then just having another guy there…you know he’s giving 110% and he knows I am giving 110% We are always backing each other up.”
The James brothers have always feared the unthinkable, that one of them would make the Olympic team and the other would not. That scenario almost played out this year when Grant earned his spot on the team early and Ross did not. It came down to the last day of racing before Ross learned his status.
“They were switching a few guys in and out,” said Grant. “Ross and one other rower were the last guys switching back and forth so it was coming down to the line for Ross. The guy’s actually took a vote on it because it was very tight racing and they picked Ross. “
The brothers say representing the U.S. is an honor like no other and being able to do it together makes the experience even more special.
“I am always very proud to represent the United States,” said Grant. “I love wearing the red, white and blue, but I don’t consider myself or feel like a hero. I am really glad I get the chance to represent my country and my biggest wish is to make them all proud.”
The James brothers are not the first set of rowing twins. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss of Facebook fame are just one famous example. As a matter of fact, more than a dozen Olympic contenders from the U-S will be accompanied by their siblings during competition at the London Games. The athletes, including at least one other set of twins will compete for medals in several sports including Taekwondo, field hockey and tennis.
So what about the future? Grant says he and his brother have more years ahead of them in rowing.
“We’re just getting started. I think we still have an ability to keep rowing and I think I’m going to try and keep rowing as long as I’m able. We’ll start with next year and see where that goes.”
And what about those engineering degrees?
“We definitely want to use our degrees and we stay in touch with them,” said Grant. “We’ve had part time jobs while we’re training and after we’re done rowing we’re definitely going to be pursuing engineering careers. It’s nice to have a distraction from rowing and know you can still use your brain.”