Bailey and Tanner Espersen may be identical twins, but they are as different and competitive as Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.
The 15-year-old boys have been swimming with the Bulkley Valley Otters Swim Club for nearly a decade, a tradition that started with their dad.
“He started training us here when we were four and then we got introduced to the program and stuck with it because it was what we liked to do,” said Bailey.
Tanner added that their father was on the national water polo team.
Since then, the duo have diversified their skills swimming anything from the 400 medley to breaststroke in countless competitions across the province.
“I like everything about it, pretty much” said Bailey. “I like staying in shape, I like competing. The best feeling is when you get a good time at a swim meet and you look up and see your time.”
Tanner specializes in the 1,500-metre or 800-metre freestyle, while Bailey specializes in the individual medley.
They have won numerous individual and team medals, most recently, their relay team took home silver at the AAA championship in Vancouver last year.
The number of medals they’ve won is an indication of how competitive they are against other swimmers and each other.
“There’s some showdowns sometimes,” said Bailey. “It alternates who wins, but it’s pretty exciting racing between us because we’ve always done it. It’s a gruelling experience when you race your brother.”
The Espersen twins admitted they used to play hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball together, but gave it up for swimming.
“It keeps you out of trouble. There’s no better feeling than after a good race. Just coming into the pool everyday, I’ve got something to look forward to,” said Tanner.
Their love for swimming is also reflected in their lifestyle; they practice at the Bulkley Valley Aquatic Centre roughly eight times a week, on top of their “dryland” exercises.
“It’s more than just a sport, it consumes your life,” said Tanner. “If I wasn’t swimming, I don’t know what I would do with my time since it’s all we’ve been doing since we were four.”
According to coach Tom Best, the two may look similar, but differ significantly in their swim styles.
“Physically, they’re quite different and that means that there are differences in the events they swim,” said Best, who has coached the boys for the past two years.
“The biggest difference is Tanner is naturally very good at maintaining his base. Bailey has had to learn that, but he’s gotten a lot better at it. I think Tanner tries to be a little more precise at what he does, again Bailey has had to learn that.”
“Bailey’s bathing suits fall off on a much more regular basis, Tanner’s rarely do,” Best joked.
Though they are still in high school and post-secondary is a few years off, the brothers hope their skills will some day land them a scholarship or an opportunity to swim on a varsity team.
And while they’ve swam together their whole life, the twins said post-secondary may offer them a much-needed chance to swim apart.
“Separate wouldn’t be bad,” laughed Tanner.
“We spend a lot of time together right now, so hopefully when we get a bit older things will change and then we’ll go our own way, but we’ll still stick with swimming,” added Bailey.
The dynamic duo, along with fellow Otter teammates Gabrielle Correia and Luke Berarducci, are getting set to take on competitors at the AAA championships in Victoria from July 3-6.