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Wednesday March 22, 2006

The Family Games

MARK and Steve Waugh spring to mind, as do Michael and Ralf Schumacher. 

And then there is the Williams sisters on the tennis courts and the Neville brothers in the English Premier League. 

Some families are born into sport, and sibling rivalry is alive and kicking at the Commonwealth Games. 

SIBLING RIVALRY: Jane Saville (right) and her sister Natalie celebrate after a 1-2 finish in the women’s 20km walk on Monday. -- APpic
They may call it the Friendly Games, but the Commonwealth Games could easily be renamed the Family Games. 

There are the Hipa brothers, Afoa and Daniel, from Niue Island and Kenyans Allan and Patrick Onyango in the rugby sevens, while the Solia sisters, Geraldine and Frances, play netball for Samoa. 

But Australia win hands down in the sibling stakes. 

Nine sets of Aussie brothers or sisters are competing and at least four family groupings have been pitted against each other for medals in their respective events. 

While they may not be as big in the fame game as the Waughs and the Williams, the Saville sisters have gone down a storm in Melbourne. Jane and younger sister Natalie took the gold and silver in the 20km walk. 

And in true sisterly fashion, the more experienced Jane, who talks as fast as she walks, passed advice on the course to her little sister to make sure it was a family one-two. 

“I was just so proud of Nat, she has stuffed up so many races – and so have I – and she hasn't really shown her true colours in international races before now,” said Jane, who walks with his sister three hours a day. 

Friendly rivalry seems to be the name of the game in Melbourne. 

Natalie Grinham found herself up against sister Rachael in the squash final on Monday, and while the competitive juices were flowing and she never gave an inch on court, it was all hugs and kisses afterwards. 

“It’s always very difficult to play Rachael, especially because she's my sister, but I was just thinking about making her tired,” she said after beating her higher ranked rival to take gold. 

Their mum, Davina, said that she couldn’t care less who won. 

“We are already the winners, I'm ecstatic, this is absolutely great,” she said. 

Natalie’s victory was similar to the manner in which cyclist Anna Meares downed her elder sister Kerrie in the 500m time trial, as well as knocking her out of the sprint in which they eventually won silver and bronze. 

“We had the most important people in our lives cheering us on, and that’s what made it so sweet a victory,” said the younger Meares, who, like the Savilles and Grinhams, trains with her sister. 

The cycling circus had another family connection with Kate and Natalie Bates also in action. Kate won gold on the track while her younger sister competed in the road racing. 

Other siblings in action include Clive and George Barton (skeet shooting); Gabrielle Neighbour (hammer) and Aaron (discus); as well as Ashley and Stuart Brehaut (badminton). 

Close-knit sisters Benita Johnson (10,000m) and Caitlin Willis (4x400m) will be out on the track, bemused at how they’ve ended up at a Commonwealth Games together but in different events. 

“It’s amazing my sister is doing a completely different race, but we’re both proud,” said Benita. 

Besides the sibling rivalry, there are husband and wives competing in diving and shooting while Australian pole vault queen Tatiana Grigorieva has her 15-year-old niece, Vicky Parnov, as a rival. 

India have their own claim to fame in champion pistol shooter Samaresh Jung, who has won four gold so far, while his rifle shooting wife, Anuja, has a silver. – AFP 


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