Family rivalries can make foraffairs.
Add sport into the mix, and then top it all with the extra intensity that can come with being a twin, and you have a recipe for combustibility and strife that many a tortured parent will recognise all too readily.
Daniel and Nathan Wiffen were introduced to swimming after their older brother Ben took up the sport and they enjoyed it so much that their mother, who used to swim herself, thought it a no- brainer.
It’s worked out well. Daniel will swim for Ireland in the 800m and 1,500m freestyle here in Tokyo while Nathan sliced five seconds off his PB in the 200m backstroke at the Swim Ireland at the National Aquatic Centre last month.
Daniel looks back now and reckons they beat the other as often as they were beaten themselves. Nathan is still the most competitive person he has met but you’d hope that they have learned to keep a lid on a rivalry that has always simmered.
“Yeah, from an early age mum had to separate us into doing different events because we’d probably get into a fight about who would be the better swimmer,” he recalled prior to the swim team’s departure for Tokyo earlier this month.
Nathan may yet make Paris in 2024. His sibling certainly feels that’s doable and they seem to have found, if not domestic bliss, then a working understanding over at Loughborough University where they also live together.
Daniel cooks, Nathan cleans.
It’s a much more harmonious scene than the one they took part in as Game of Thrones extras when the famous Red Wedding massacre was filmed. As is the way with these things, it took a few takes, but they loved every minute of it.
Twins who can find their way about a TV or film set are in high demand due to their rarity and the two lads from outside Lisburn have appeared in a show called The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix and a number of children’s TV shows to boot.
Meeting Jon Snow (Kit Harington), the star of ‘GOT’, seems to have been a particular thrill.
The Olympics will likely trump even that. Wiffen is one those athletes who actually benefited from the 12-month postponement. Still only 19, it gave him time to realise that what was a flight of fancy was now within his orbit.
“I always wanted to go to the Olympics, and there are previous interviews of me saying that the next Olympics would be my goal,” he explained. “But I made this one and was so happy with that.
“I was hitting really fast times in training in January that would put me on the plane and all my training partners were telling me, ‘You definitely can get this’. That’s what really gave me the idea. I told myself I could make the team then.” Loughborough’s part in all this is considerable. The English university has played a part in honing elite Irish athletes for years now and Wiffen, who was born in Leeds, has embraced the commonality of purpose.
His main training partner in the UK is the Austrian Felix Aubock who came into these Games ranked top three in the world in multiple freestyle events and another housemate is William Bell who isn’t a member of Team GB here but a shout for 2024.
Wiffen is certainly young enough to go again then as well but he isn’t treating Tokyo as just a high-end test run. The way he sees it, he could make a final if he wipes five seconds of his personal best in the 800m. Doable, he says. After all, he’s already skimmed 21 seconds from it this season.
“I’d say it’s doable. Nothing’s impossible, so we’ll see.”