They’re eight years old with rivals aged up to 14, but Mairi and Marin Rutherford-Simon have enough energy that their competitors might want to look over their shoulders.
When they do, those athletes will think they’re seeing double.
The Rutherford-Simons are identical twins, Métis sisters born 11 minutes apart. They are the youngest athletes on the Northwest Territories team for the 2023 North American Indigenous Games and are understood to be the youngest entrants in this week’s swimming events in Halifax.
A medal in their favourite event – the 200m freestyle – is a long shot. But for athletes like Mairi and Marin, that isn’t really the point.
“This means a lot. It’s such a fantastic event to experience at such a young age,” said their mother, Lori, outside the Dalhouse University swimming pool where the team held its first training session on Monday.
“Their older sister is coaching, their dad is coaching and their brother is playing,” she added, referring to soccer coaches Bronwyn and Chris and soccer player Ferghus respectively.
“We all get to see each other. This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Despite the family atmosphere, the twins had to work hard to earn a place on the NWT team, for which Lori praised coach Tyree Mullaney.
But Mairi said they aren’t driven by an intense sibling rivalry in the way some family units are.
“If one of us wins, then we both win,” she said as the sisters performed gymnastics moves on a Dalhousie lawn.
Yes, people confuse the two of them. They casually pointed out their own mother had mixed them up that very morning, and Marin said a fellow student once thought one of them must be a hologram.
But they also lean into that, struggling to come up with an answer when asked what their differences are.
“What’s different about us is my finger that I need to get checked,” said Mairi, pointing to a minor injury.
“And my foot,” said Marin, referring to foot surgery she had when she was younger.