We ask Hornby Evers-Swindell what it was like raising his double Olympic Gold medallist rowing champ twin daughters, Caroline and Georgina.
How old were Caroline and Georgina when they started rowing?
Caroline started when she was 14 and this was the first sport that they had not started together. Georgina was not allowed to try rowing until Caroline had made the New Zealand team, which was two years later. There is no real history of the family being mad keen rowers, although over the generations there have been rowers in the family. There was no instant indication of what lay ahead as far as ability goes, but of course by the time Georgina started, Caroline was showing real potential, and it was assumed that, being twins, there was no reason why Georgina couldn’t do as well.
Have they always been competitive?
They have always been extremely competitive with each other from a very early age, but we never noticed their competitiveness when they were playing team sports at school. Rowing was a different matter though, and one of their strengths must be their determination to win each race regardless of its importance.
Did they have time for other sports/hobbies?
The girls played hockey, cricket, netball, cycling, swimming and basketball with varying degrees of success before taking up rowing.
How much training did the girls have to do once they started competing?
During their school days, training was two or three afternoons during the week and every Sunday. Once they left school, and up until their retirement, rowing was their full time occupation. Both girls started university degrees, but the time committed to rowing, along with long periods out of the country each year, and now with young families, has meant their degrees have been put on the backburner.
What aspects of their personality do you think have helped them become so successful?
Their competitive nature, single-mindedness, and maybe their stubbornness inherited from me. Other elements helped them become successful, but I feel these were developed since being in the sport.
Growing up, did they have any particular role models they aspired to?
Caroline’s early role model was Anna Lawrence who was captain of the NZ women’s hockey team and Georgina admired Barbara Kendall, as she was a gold medal
What things did you enjoy doing together as a family?
Georgina and Caroline have an older sister Pippa and a younger sister Lizzie. As a family, we enjoyed wonderful summer holidays at our family bach, where we were joined by other family members, and we all have fond memories of those summers, with lots of sailing. We had several winter skiing holidays where the girls were definitely better than their parents. The girls all supported each other and there was a lot of mutual respect for what each was putting into their sport.
In what ways did you encourage and support Georgina and Caroline?
We have supported all our children in whatever sport they have done. Our two other daughters both had horses, which luckily the twins hated, so that was a relief from the wallet point of view. On many occasions, we would spend the weekends split with horses in one direction and rowers in another, with a parent each. There is no way a child is going to succeed if parents (and many do) use sport as a babysitting service. We have travelled extensively both in New Zealand and overseas supporting our children, and have treated all the girls on equal terms, regardless of the fact that two have been in the public eye.
What are the qualities you think are most important to instill in your children?
As parents, we have always believed in being open and honest with our children and not hiding anything from them. I am not sure that we set about to instill any particular qualities in our children, but we gave them an education that we felt was right for them and a safe and loving home life.