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Twin Belgian Olympic Sprinters Study in U.S., Break Records

Coach says Borlée brothers are good role models

By Carlos Aranaga | Staff Writer | 23 June 2009
Twins in track uniforms walking together (FSU/Ross Obley)

Belgium’s Borlée brothers brought Olympic star power to Florida State University’s running program.

Washington — Belgian-born Jonathan and Kevin Borlée, 21-year-old twin sprinters who represented Belgium in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, continue to hone their skills as freshmen at Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee. Recruited by FSU in fall 2008, the two began studies at the university in Florida’s state capital in January.

In June, the brothers helped FSU in its bid for a fourth straight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title at the NCAA tournament in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a 4x400-meter relay victory. The relay team’s time of 2:59.99 was the second-fastest time recorded worldwide this season, and the best-ever by a Florida State team.

Jonathan won the individual 400-meter sprint, setting a Belgian national record at 44.78 seconds.

Other victories include a new FSU record set by the brothers as part of a 400-meter relay team, clocking in at 3 minutes, 1.54 seconds at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia in April.

The twins and their sister, Olympic silver-medal sprinter Olivia Borlée, were coached by their father, Jacques Borlée, an Olympic sprinter at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.


As with all university athletes in the United States, Jonathan and Kevin follow a normal program of study while playing sports. They train and study eight hours a day, with tutors available to help them stay motivated. Jonathan is studying economics while Kevin studies physical therapy.

“The twins have done an amazing job adapting to the language, culture and the many demands that come with being an NCAA student-athlete,” said Ken Harnden, FSU’s coach. “Their English has improved in leaps and bounds, aided by a few games of FIFA soccer with their teammates.”

Jonathan and Kevin will run for Belgium in July at the European Athletics Championships in Kaunas, Lithuania, and at the 12th International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Berlin in August.

Asked if the Borleés will return to Tallahassee for the fall term, Harnden said no decisions likely will be made until after the world championships.

“They have been great to coach, very hard workers in the classroom and on the track, and they have been very good role models to the other young guys we have,” he said.

For another look at student athletes in the United States, see “Congolese Soccer Player Scores for Oregon College.”

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