Forget about King Philippe and co, the Borlees are the only Belgian royalty you need to know about. SPIKES catches up with 400m muckers Kevin, Jonathan and Dylan to talk about life in Belgian athletics’ first family.

Three is the magic number. What exactly is magic about it, we don’t know. But there was certainly wizardry on display at the Belgian national championships at the weekend, where we witnessed a unique triple in the 400m.

Each spot on the podium was occupied by a Borlee: Jonathan in first, Kevin in second and Dylan in third. That magic three is actually a high five, with sister Olivia Borlee winning the 200m and finishing second in the 100m in Brussels.

Olivia, 29, is the eldest of the super-speedy siblings, and is the one who first displayed the rare athletic talent that the family has wagon loads of. It was her who first lured identical twins Jonathan and Kevin to the track when they were in their late teens

“We didn’t start doing athletics until we were 16 I think,” Kevin, 27, says. “We were always playing sports, but our sport wasn’t athletics. We first started with soccer, then Olivia took athletics up and then Jonathan and I started.

“When she started to run fast, we went to see her at each competition. One day I said ‘why not just try it ourselves?’. We talked about it in the bathroom [obvs] and one of us just said ‘let’s try this track thing’. And the next day we started.”

The twins were soon replicating their older sister’s promising performances. They both competed at the 2005 Marrakech World Youth Championships and then the 2006 Beijing World Junior Championships. Somewhere in amongst all that they also collected their first national senior titles aged only 18, Jonathan over 200m (indoors) and Kevin over 400m (indoors). Hurrah for that conversation in the bathroom.

Borlee Family ()

Olivia has always paved the way for the rest

In 2008 they were back in Beijing for the Olympics, with both making it through to the semi finals. Olivia was also in the Bird’s Nest, wining surprise silver and clocking a national record in the 4x100m relay.

The same venue will play host to next month’s world championships, giving the brothers a chance to show all that they’ve learned in the last seven years.

“We only have good memories of there,” recalls Jonathan, who holds the Belgium 400m national record of 44.43. “I think we can all agree that we want to add some more to that.

“The past few years were quite tough, so this year we are just focusing on getting back to the basics and running consistently sub-45s, so that will be our first target. Training is going really well and we are really confident that we can go faster in the 4x4.”

Belgian 4x4 Borlee ()

They have already broken the indoor and outdoor national 4x400m record this year, how much faster can the quartet go?

Training is another family affair. Jonathan, Kevin, Dylan and Olivia train together, coached by papa Jacques, who won 200m silver at the 1983 European indoor champs.

This, Kevin says, has its advantages.

“I think the thing is, we are pretty much a similar level and just trying to push each other every day. It’s not a competition, just trying to go as hard as we can, to keep our best.”

Jonathan agrees, although he also says there are drawbacks to being such a tightly knit family and athletic unit.

“I think we just push each other every day, we don’t want to beat each other, we just want get the best out of each of us every day.

“When one of us doesn’t perform [well] or gets injured, that’s the negative part because when everything goes well it’s fine and we motivate each other, but when someone is injured, it’s tough.

“You know, Olivia got injured for quite some time now and she’s getting better, but sometimes it’s not good to see her struggle. Dylan last year got a back injury and we are really close, so when something like that happens it’s a tough one.”

Borlee Family ()

The world is not enough

At 22, Dylan is the brother keeping the older Borlees on their collective toes. He admits to feeling some pressure when he first started his pro career, but says he shook the burden so he could focus better on his own performances.

“Everybody was comparing me to Jon and Kevin, but I think after a while I stopped thinking about it and just focused on my own running and it seems to be going well. I just do what I have to do and we’ll see what happens.”

Jonathan is the fastest European over 400m so far this year, while both Kevin and Dylan are ranked in the top 20. Though they haven't quite hit top form, the older brothers' experience means they are well in with a medal shout at worlds. And in the relay, only a fool would rule them out. This year already, the three brothers, together with Julien Watrin, have won European indoor 4x400m gold in March (setting a NR along the way) and bagged bronze in the same event at the World Relays in May, setting another national record of 2:59.33 in the process.

The Borlée family won already 24 (!) medals at European-World-NCAA-Championships and Olympic Games. This historical...

Posted by Borlée Family - Official on Monday, 6 July 2015

Whatever the outcome next month, or ever for that matter, this family unit clearly works. Jonathan says through the hard times and the good, there is always a sibling to turn to for support.

“We’ve always been very close. We are a really close family. We’ve had some tough times when we were younger; our parents got divorced and us siblings stood really close with each other and helped each other through that time.

“And like I said, right now when one of us has a hard time, we stick together and look out for each other. I think that is why all of us started track, we just wanted to stick together, do our thing and at the end of the day, it is a bit like life in general.”