When it comes to sporting greatness, some people just want to keep it in the family. Tokyo2020.org takes a look at five of the highest achieving families in the history of sport, including some who are hoping to achieve glory at next year’s Games in Japan.
Venus and Serena Williams (tennis)
The first family members on the list need no introduction. When the Williams sisters won Olympic doubles gold at London 2012, they achieved something extraordinary. They became the first tennis players, male or female, to win four Olympic gold medals. And they both achieved the feat on the same day, in the same final, playing alongside each other.
Their Olympic records today are almost identical. Venus and Serena have each triumphed once in the singles tournament and three times as a doubles pair, sharing a total of eight gold medals between them. It’s an incredible feat of togetherness.
Of course, the Olympics makes up only part of the sisters’ story, with younger sibling Serena holding the record for most Grand Slam singles titles in the modern era (23), while Venus has won seven. The pair have also won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, with an unbeaten record that stands to this day.
Even though they achieved so much individually, it seems they hold their joint wins in higher esteem. As Venus said to the Olympic Channel after their 2012 Olympic doubles victory: “As a pair, I think this is the title we wanted most… and to do this as sisters just makes our lives amazing."
While the Williams sisters may be the sporting greats of their family, their success story started very close to home. Father Richard coached them through their early years, even though he initially had very little experience of tennis.
John and John Jr. Gregorek (athletics)
Second on the list are a father-son combo who share more than just the same first name. These two talented athletes also share immense speed.
Back in February 2017, when John Jr. placed third in the Boston University Last Chance mile race with a time of 3:53, he achieved more than a podium finish. His result that day made him and his dad the fastest father-son mile duo in history, with an average PB time of 3:52.25.
John Gregorek Sr. qualified for the U.S. Olympic steeplechase team for Moscow 1980, but needed to wait another four years before making his Olympic bow at Los Angeles 1984, finishing 11th in the semi-finals with a time of 8:38.19.
Fast-forward 40 years and a second member of the family is hoping to make his mark on Tokyo 2020. After a highly promising 2019 when he ran a 3:49.98 mile, John Jr. began to dream about emulating his father’s achievements, aiming for a spot on the U.S. 1,500m Olympic team.
“I like to think that in 2020, I have an equal amount of momentum and faith in myself to come through in 2021 and continue the ol’ Gregorek Olympian tradition,” Gregorek Jr. said to Sports Illustrated. And who would bet against him?
Gregorek and Gregorek Jr. aren’t the only talented sportspeople in their family. Gregorek Jr’s mum, Christine Mullen, competed in the 1,500 metre finals at both the 1980 and 1984 Olympic trials. Talk about keeping it in the family.
Alistair and Jonny Brownlee (triathlon)
Great Britain’s Brownlee brothers first lit up the Olympics together at London 2012, where they won gold (Alistair) and bronze (Jonny) in the men’s triathlon. Four years later at Rio 2016, the brothers went one better, taking home gold and silver in Brazil. Once again, it was older brother Alistair who stood on top of the podium, with Jonny coming home in second place.
You might think that competing against each other at such an elite level would cause bitterness between the brothers. But in the case of the Brownlees, quite the opposite has happened. Not only have the brothers lived and trained together throughout their careers, they have also been there for each other when they needed it most.
One unforgettable example came at the 2016 triathlon World Series event in Mexico where a second placed Alistair gave up his chance of winning to help an exhausted and dehydrated Jonny across the line.
As Alistair said at the time: “It was a natural human reaction to my brother but for anyone I would have done the same thing. I think it’s as close to death as you can be in sport.”
Fun fact: With Alistair’s participation at Tokyo 2020 still undecided, it may well be younger brother Jonny’s opportunity to step into the spotlight. As he said simply during an interview with the Independent: ‘Right, it’s my turn now to shine.’
2016 Getty Images
Floyd Jr. and Roger Mayweather (boxing)
It’s one thing to come from a top sporting family. But what about when your high achieving family member becomes your coach? That was the case for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his uncle Roger.
Mayweather Jr. needs no introduction. The boxer, who is considered by many to be the greatest of his generation, won fifteen world titles in his career, retiring with an unbeaten record of 50-0. But before his professional boxing career sparked to life, Floyd Mayweather Jr. was a decorated Olympian, winning a bronze medal in the featherweight division at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
However, Floyd wasn’t the only member of his family with an illustrious boxing past. Uncle Roger, who passed away in March 2020, was a two-weight world champion, holding the WBA super featherweight title between 1983 and 1984, and the WBC light welterweight title from 1987 to 1989.
And when the prodigiously talented Floyd began his professional career in 1996, Roger took the reins as his trainer, helping to develop the young fighter into the world beater he would become.
“My uncle was one of the most important people in my life inside and outside of the ring. Roger was a great champion and one of the best trainers in boxing.”
Roger and Floyd weren’t the only two elite athletes in the Mayweather clan. Floyd’s father (also named Floyd) held a professional record of 17-2 and also went on to coach his son during his professional career.
2007 Getty Images
Pau and Marc Gasol (basketball)
The Gasol brothers will be hoping to make it a golden summer next year, as they both aim to take the stage at Tokyo 2020. If he makes the Olympic team, older brother Pau will be 41 by the time the Games begin. But the lure of one more shot at Olympic glory, alongside his brother, may prove too much to resist for the Spanish basketball great.
When Marc Gasol won the NBA title last year with the Toronto Raptors, he and his brother became the first set of siblings ever to win NBA titles, following Pau’s triumphs in 2009 and 2010.
However, at Olympic level the pair still have unfinished business. Marc has won two silver medals, the first at Beijing 2008 and the second at London 2012, while six-time NBA All-Star Pau also has a bronze medal from Rio 2016, to go alongside the two silvers he won on the same team as his brother.
Pau summed up the brotherly bond the siblings share soon after Marc had won the 2019 NBA title: “Who would have thought? Hours upon hours playing the sport we love since when we were little kids, pursuing our dreams. And now, how wonderful is it that we get to live moments like this one?”
Will the brothers step up to the top of the podium at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo?
Growing up, the two brothers’ rivalry extended far beyond the basketball court, and their parents’ experience working in the medical field came very much in handy. One such instance was recounted by Pau in his autobiography: "You cannot beat me. I am too good. I am the oldest brother", said Pau, making fun of his younger sibling. "He threw his racket at me and hit my head. What a temper!"