It is often said that twins have a connection that others can't really understand. And when this connection is combined with sports? The results can be spectacular.
People in Vancouver will remember the exploits of Swedish hockey-playing twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who dazzled for 18 years with the Canucks. And now Vancouver has another twin sporting sensation to get excited about.
Guy and Kindar McNamee.
Though their sport—climbing—may not be as high profile as hockey, these 17 year-olds are already making waves as Olympic stars-in-waiting. Born in Haiti, Guy and Kindar have lived in B.C. since they were two years old. As young adults, they have spent much of the last few years ranked 1 and 2 nationally in certain climbing categories. They have also performed well internationally, grabbing medals at the 2017 Pan Am Youth Games.
We talked with the twins about how they got started in their sport, trusting themselves and others as they climb, and their big dreams for the future.
Onward and upward!
OWLconnected: When did you first take to climbing? Was it introduced to you as a sport, or did it just begin with you climbing trees and rocks on hikes?
Guy and Kindar: We climbed everything in sight when we were little boys—doorways, roofs, monkey bars, trees, etc. We actually started climbing in a gym when we very young, and we instantly fell in love with it. We did drop-ins until we were nine years old. Then we joined a youth program.
OC: Why climbing? What about the sport speaks to you?
K: I love that climbing is different every time. It has so many styles. There is always another way to get to the top. You use your whole body, and I love having to solve the climb. You work hard on the problem and then your hard work pays off by getting to the top—it is a great feeling. I also love the community.
G: There are many reasons why I love climbing. I know that it’s not a team sport—I don’t think I would suit a team sport. I like just having to rely on myself. It’s just me and the wall. Climbing has so many different aspects and tests that it can give. It tests your mental ability. You must figure out the best way to get up the wall, and the best way for you may not be the best for someone else. I like feeling strong and powerful on the wall—I feel confident and comfortable up there. It never gets boring!
OC: Twins in sports can display exceptional common understanding. Even though climbing is an individual sport, are their advantages that you give one another?
G and K: We love climbing together and always have someone to climb with who’s at the same level. We help each other out in training. It’s nice to always have someone to belay you. [Belaying is when a person on the ground holds and secures a rope attached to a climber to make sure they don't fall far if they slip.] We push each other into becoming better and share advice about how to do a particular climb. When one of us finishes a climb, the other one often finishes the very next try.
OC: What about differences? Name one thing about climbing that you believe you do better than your sibling, and then vice versa.
K: I think I am slightly better at strength climbs than Guy is. Guy is better at coordination and slab climbs than I am. [Slab climbing features less-than-vertical slopes and very small holds, or features for climbers to grab.]
G: I believe I am better at coordination moves than Kindar, but worse at trusting my feet than him. Some climbs have tiny foot holds which you have to put your whole body weight on and trust that you won’t slip.
OC: So much of climbing seems to be about self-belief and faith. This groove will hold my weight. I can make it to the top without getting tired. How do you both stay mentally strong?
K: I haven’t had too much trouble with my mental game, to be honest. When I am feeling stressed, I usually take deep breaths or try to focus on something other than the competition. I try not to think about how well I did or how poorly I did on the previous climb. I try to relax and not think about the results.
G: Mental ability is definitely a big part of climbing. Believing in yourself is very important in all sports—even outside of sports it is important. Climbing is no exception. Especially when it comes to rope climbing. You have to trust that your belayer knows what they are doing. You trust them to catch you. Sometimes your falls are huge, which can be hard to commit to.
OC: Before COVID happened, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was to be the debut of climbing as a sport. Will you be ready to represent Canada by 2024?
G and K: We would both love to represent Canada at the Olympics one day. It could be 2024, 2028 or even 2032.
OC: Tell us about your favourite interest outside climbing.
K: I don’t have a favourite interest, but here are a few things that I like to do: Singing, listening to music, reading, and watching movies/TV shows.
G: I play the piano, sing in a choir, cook, read, and hang out with friends. Over the pandemic, I’ve been cooking a lot more. I’ve realized that I really enjoy it!
OC: What is your advice to a young person who wants to try climbing but is also a little intimidated?
K: It’s never as scary it seems. The worst mistake you can do is to not try, so remember to always have fun.
G: When you decide to climb, try to keep an open mind. It is very different from most sports. It’s fun and wonderful. Try to go with your friends. Climbing is quite social and I’m sure you will get hooked right away.
OC: Tell us the one place on Earth that you'd love to climb in the future.
G and K: Japan. They have amazing climbing gyms, fantastic climbers, and delicious food.