There Are So Many Siblings Going to the Olympics Together This Summer
As the opening ceremony for Tokyo 2021 gets closer and closer, all eyes are on the stars of the Games: The Olympians, especially the biggest rising celebs of this year's Olympics. While most families from the U.S. sadly can't be present in person to watch their Olympians due to COVID restrictions in Japan, they'll be able to cheer them on from afar at a resort in Orlando, Florida. And some pretty impressive families will be rooting for two Team USA athletes who excelled enough in the same sport to make it to the Olympics (Clearly, something in their gene pool went very right).
From Massachusetts sisters Kristie and Sam Mewis making history as the first sisters teaming up on the U.S. Women's Olympic Soccer team to Jessica and Nelly Korda, who will be putting as separate members of the Team USA golf team, the Olympics are a family affair for a few lucky sibling pairs.
Here are Team USA's 14 siblings who are heading to Tokyo, and what they have to say about competing with (or against) their built-in BFF.
Jessica and Nelly Korda (Golf)
Nelly Korda, 22, started playing golf in the first place because of big sister Jessica Korda, 28. Now they're both going to the Tokyo Olympics, and will technically be facing off against one another. But, they want you to know, it's not like that. "People like to put us against each other all the time to see if they can spark a rivalry or something. But we just keep disappointing everybody," Jessica said in an interview with Golf Digest. And luckily for their family and friends watching, they have the same tee times in Tokyo.
Fun facts: Their parents are tennis stars Petr and Regina Korda, and their younger brother Sebastian Korda is also a pro tennis player. They're also not the first in the family to make it to the Olympics. Mom Regina Korda already competed in the 1988 Olympics for her native Czechoslovakia. Talk about a superstar fam. "We're all there for each other, even if it's a simple, 'No matter what, I'm always proud of you,'" Jessica said.
Henry and Jack Leverett III (Shooting)
The Leverett brothers from Georgia have been immersed in the sport of shooting from their elementary school days. Jack, 21, and Henry, 20, along with their younger sister Abbie, 18, have had their dad as a coach from a young age.
Just one year apart, they both were on the Pistol team at Ohio State University, before qualifying for the Olympic team. "It couldn't have worked out better for us both to be going. To compete and support each other in Tokyo, well, that's an experience in itself," Jack told USA Shooting. They've always been right behind one another, every step of the way. "It's my first time in Japan and at the Games, so to have my best friend there with me is really comforting, especially when the competition and chaos begins," Henry added.
Kristie and Sam Mewis (Soccer)
Kristie and Mewis are extra pumped to be making Olympic history on the U.S. Women's Soccer team, especially because they both almost didn't make the team. Sam, 28, was on the 2019 World Cup-winning U.S. Women's National Team and went to the 2016 Olympics as an alternate, without getting the chance to play. Kristie, 30, joined the U.S. Women's National Team more recently after playing for the Houston Dash and working through an almost career-ending ACL tear that motivated her to make the national team.
They admit that there was a little bit of sibling rivalry growing up, especially when it came to soccer. "We were just polar opposites," Kristie told People. "It is so funny that we're best friends now because we literally hated each other growing up. But at the same time, we were kind of like secretive best friends because we literally did everything with soccer together."
Finding out they were going to the Olympics together was something monumentally special for their family though. "We actually FaceTimed our parents together right away to tell them, and that was just a really special moment for all four of us to be on the phone together and celebrating," Sam said.
Erik and Kawika Shoji (Volleyball)
This is not the first Olympics for Erik and Kawika Shoji. The brothers competed in Rio in 2016 on the volleyball team and are stoked to return. Originally from Hawaii, Kawika, 33, and Erik, 31, have pretty much always been volleyball teammates, from the ages of 9 and 7. Their father, Dave Shoji, coached women's volleyball at the University of Hawaii for 42 years, so they've had plenty of practice on the court.
"Basically, we grew up in the gym and just developed at a young age a passion and love for the game," Erik said in a Team USA interview. "Definitely just being in the gym and surrounded by great players and dad as a coach helped develop our skills." They're particularly excited for this Olympics in Japan since they have Japanese ancestry — this is expected to be Kawika's last Olympics, while Erik is hoping for one more go for the gold in 2024.
Aria and Makenzie Fischer (Water polo)
Makenzie and Aria Fischer are already Olympic gold medalists, and they're only 24 and 22, respectively (That's right, they were on the Olympic gold-winning women's Olympic Water Polo team at age 19 and 17, and Aria became the youngest U.S. female team sport athlete to win gold at a summer Olympic Games). Basically, they were destined for Olympic greatness: Their dad, Erich Fischer, competed with the U.S. Men's National Water Polo team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and coached both sisters growing up.
They knew they had Olympic dreams from the time they started playing water polo seriously. "I always wanted to play sports in college and in the Olympics. Our dad was an Olympian, so we saw what it meant to him before we understood what it was. We knew it was something really cool, really special, and really unique," Mackenzie shared in a USA water polo interview.
And Makenzie was Aria's competitive role model. "I got a lot of motivation from seeing Makenzie grow up and starting to have success — just chasing her, wanting to be as good as her, and trying to be better than her," Aria admits. That drive brought them both to the Olympic team together in 2016, and again ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Phillip and Ryan Chew (Badminton)
Phillip and Ryan Chew are about to make their Olympic debut together as doubles partners in badminton. Phillip, 27, played in Rio in 2016, and Ryan is about to play with his brother in Tokyo. Born in Thailand before coming to the U.S., Phillip started playing badminton at age 2 and was already winning tournament medals at age 5. Their grandfather, Don Chew, is a major sponsor of the sport and sponsored both brothers throughout their journey in the sport.
"First, it would've been impossible to qualify without the big support from our family, especially our grandfather, Don Chew. Our grandfather traveled, coached, and mentored us over the last five years to become better badminton players," Phillip wrote in an Instagram post after qualifying for Tokyo. "And of course, thank you Ryan for playing with me and always supporting me on and off the court," he added.
Courtney and Kelley Hurley (Fencing)
The Hurley sisters are pretty much Olympic veterans at this point. Kelley, 33, has competed in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics, and Courtney also competed in 2016 and 2012, where the U.S. Women's Fencing Team earned a bronze medal. Their parents met through fencing (cute!), so it was obvious that their daughters were going to continue with the sport through college (they both attended the University of Notre Dame) and professionally.
Like Kristie and Sam Mewis, they didn't always get along perfectly, particularly when it came to fencing and qualifying for their first Olympics. "When I was younger, it was more competitive between me and her, and when she got in there behind me I just thought 'C'mon, Courtney, this is my glory. Move on. Fence a different weapon or something.' It was very competitive between us for 2008," older sister Kelley told USA Fencing in an interview. "But by 2012, we had definitely come to terms with our competition against each other and we joined forces with each other." Their roles on the fencing team complement each other, Kelley explains: "She's good at one thing and I'm good at something else, and together it really provides for a great team dynamic."
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