Mere moments separated Florida State freshman sprinters Jonathan and Kevin Borlee at birth and little has changed for the identical twins from Brussels, Belgium.
They're still a breath apart … on the track, anyway.
"They do push each other," said coach Ken Harnden, who handles the Seminoles' sprinters and relay teams. "It's hard to hold them back in training."
"We are very competitive when we practice," said Kevin, the elder twin by all of five minutes, in an exchange of e-mails with the Times. "But it's very helpful to (our) progress."
The Borlee brothers, 21, who surged to international prominence competing in the 400 meters and the 4x400 relay in last summer's Olympic Games, look for national acclaim in America during the NCAA men's outdoor track and field championships, which begin today in Fayetteville, Ark.
Both have qualified for the NCAA finale in the 400, despite limited races, and figure to challenge Florida's Calvin Smith (44.96 seconds). Jonathan has the sixth-best time nationally, 45.34 seconds, and Kevin is seventh fastest at 45.51.
They join sophomore Kevin Williams and freshman Brandon O'Connor to form the 4x400 relay team to beat. With Kevin running the second leg and Jonathan the anchor, the FSU quartet ran an eye-popping 3:01.54 at the Penn Relays in April, the third-fastest time in the event's history.
Though injuries have compromised FSU's shot at a fourth straight national championship, the Borlees should give the Seminoles a shot to finish in the top four.
"They're pretty special guys," coach Bob Braman said.
The world learned that last summer.
In the Olympic final of the 4x400, Kevin's opening leg (45.43) put Belgium right behind the United States. He handed off to his brother who ran a blistering 43.62, the second-fastest split in the race. (U.S. anchor Jeremy Wariner clinched gold with a 43:18.) Belgium finished fifth.
"It was really amazing for a country like ours," Jonathan said. "I still have chills when I watch the race again."
In the 400, Kevin just missed making the finals with a personal-best 44.88, a Belgium national record. The country's second-best time? Well, Jonathan set that in his semifinal heat, 45.11.
Before coming to FSU, their coach had been their father, Jacques, who ran the 400 for Belgium in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, and has done a pretty good job training his children. (The Borlee boys' older sister Olivia, 23, won a silver medal as part of Belgium's 4x100 relay in Beijing.)
"When they called to tell me they were coming here," Harnden said, "I did cartwheels."
Though mastering English has been challenging, the Borlees have blended in quickly with their teammates. The surest sign of that came when they asked to race at the indoor championships in mid March, bucking the plan to wait until the outdoor season to compete.
With the "twins," as their FSU teammates call them, the Seminoles just missed winning the 4x400 relay. Baylor nipped them by less than a fifth of a second. That race showed what kind of impact the Borlees could have.
"We're expecting a step up and I'm sure they're expecting a step up," Braman said of their performance this week. "The 400 and 4x400 are tough assignments; the 400's the toughest event at the NCAA (this year), but they have done it on the big stage and you're hoping they'll come through and hit it big."
basketball: Scottie Reynolds, the star point guard who in March led Villanova to its first Final Four appearance since the Wildcats won the 1985 national championship, announced Tuesday he will return for his final college season.
Army-Navy football: The Army-Navy game will be held in Philadelphia for five of the next eight years, beginning in 2010. The Naval Academy announced the game will be at Lincoln Financial Field in 2010, '12, '13, '15 and '17. Philadelphia has been the site of 81 of the 109 games.
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347. Information from Times wires was used in this report.