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Doubling the odds for glory

19 May, 2015   Nicolette Mok

Our Sporting Heroes. My Neighbour. Mark and Tim.

With deliciously complex leaps and manoeuvres – executed in perfect harmony, synchronised diving is indeed a beautiful sport.

It might be a rare sight, but throw a set of twins into the picture and the resulting image will instantly be enhanced.

Yet, one need not look any further than Team Singapore to be privy to such aesthetically exquisite action, for we have our very own pair of diving doppelgängers, Timothy and Mark Lee.

Presenting the ultimate portrait of symmetry, both on and off the sporting arena, the brothers form a fearsome pair on the springboards and are fast-rising stars on the international diving scene.

However, contrary to popular belief, the twins neither do everything together nor share identical dispositions, even if they do compete in the same sport and tend to have a rather endearing habit of finishing each other’s sentences.

While Timothy often takes on the role of official spokesperson, speaking about both his and his brother’s performances and Olympic dreams, it is Mark’s thrill-seeking side that tends to come through, as he enthuses about his sporting experiences and love for action.

“I’m actually naturally inclined towards sports, and anything related to sports, as long as there’s a form of challenge and slight danger,” he professed.

Having studied at different schools (Timothy studied aeronautical engineering at Singapore Polytechnic, while Mark read sports science at Republic Polytechnic), the 20 year-old former gymnasts also began diving at different times.

Timothy got started on the sport in 2009, progressing at an impressive enough rate to represent Singapore at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), which was his first major international outing. The following year, the young talent bagged two bronze medals at the Asian Diving Cup – an individual one and another with Mark, who had joined him to form a synchronised diving duo after YOG.

“My dad had seen an article in the newspapers about Singapore Diving trying to recruit divers for the YOG and asked me to try out. After the first dive, I just knew that this was the sport for me. I loved it,” Timothy expressed.

Despite Timothy’s earlier start, the twins could be considered evenly matched. Notably, Mark had attained Singapore’s first SEA Games diving medal since 1985 during the Myanmar meet in 2013, winning a silver in the individual three-metre springboard event.

The brothers outshone their rivals at last year’s Southeast Asian Swimming Championships as well, topping the tables to take home a gold and silver medal each. Both Timothy and Mark also qualified for last year’s Asian Games, but the former ended up jetting off to Incheon without his twin, who was nursing a foot injury.

Despite their individual successes, however, the partners-in-crime have garnered their best results when competing side-by-side in the synchronised events. These accolades include a 2013 SEA Games silver medal, a 2014 Southeast Asian Swimming Championships gold medal, and a world ranking of 10th at last year’s World Cup in Shanghai.

The prodigious twins, who hope to make it to the Olympics next year, assert that sibling rivalry hardly exists between them. Explaining that communication is the key to maintaining a good relationship with his pillar of support, Timothy said: “We just try to improve with each other. If we’re lacking in anything, we’ll talk about it and try to help each other out. We motivate each other.”

This June, the two will be participating in both the individual and synchronised three-metre springboard events at the SEA Games. They have set their sights on besting their personal records rather than trying to out-perform each other.

“For individual events, I don’t think we give much thought about who’s better. Diving, to me, is all about personal performance. You can’t compare yourself to other people,” quipped Timothy.

“Whatever we do, the most important thing is that we challenge ourselves. We’re still representing the same country,” Mark agreed.