You’d expect twins to have a lot in common. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair who share a resume as impressive as Grant and Ross James.
The twins are Eagle Scouts, national champions in high-power rifle shooting, and world-class rowers.
On Wednesday (Aug. 1) the pair will look to add one more line to their list of successes: Olympic gold medalists. They’re two members of Team USA’s eight-man rowing crew, which will be gold-medal favorites in Wednesday’s final. (See below for viewing info).
But before they left for London, Grant and Ross — who earned Eagle in 2003 in Dekalb, Ill. — talked with me by phone. Here are some highlights from our conversation:
BRYAN: Congrats on making the Olympic rowing team. Was rowing a big part of your Scouting careers?
GRANT: We did boating and canoeing and kayaking in Scouting. It was a fun, recreational thing, but we never considered we’d be doing something like this.
BRYAN: When were you introduced to rowing?
GRANT: We started in college. Before college I hadn’t heard of rowing. And then we walked onto the freshman team at the University of Wisconsin.
BRYAN: What was your favorite merit badge?
ROSS: For me, it’s not so much having a favorite one, but a pursuit of the variety of knowledge. That’s what Scouts is — a way to open a lot of doors. That’s what the merit badges are for, giving you a wide range of experiences.
BRYAN: Was there competition between you two to earn the most merit badges or get Eagle first?
GRANT: We had the natural sibling stuff. With everybody in your troop, you’re always excited to get more merit badges than your friends. And as twins, we definitely have a little competition between us.
ROSS: But we turned our Eagle Scout paperwork in at the same time.
BRYAN: What were your Eagle Scout projects?
ROSS: I built an analemmatic sundial on local park property. That’s a sundial in which there’s a brick layout of all the months on the ground. You stand on the appropriate month, and the sun will cast your shadow on an arc of numbers, telling you the time.
GRANT: I built an orienteering kit for a local forest preserve so their base of operations could rent it out and learn distances at the site.
BRYAN: Who was most influential to you as Scouts?
GRANT: Our mom. She started us in Scouts when we were just Cub Scouts. She was our den leader and ended up being our troop leader. She saw the value in Scouting. She helped us get involved and was able to get the most out of it and knew what “Eagle Scout” meant. She encouraged us to pursue as much as we could because she loves it as much as we do.
BRYAN: What advice would you give to current Scouts?
GRANT: Take advantage of all the opportunities. You get to do so much more with Scouting than you could on your own. And stay in Scouting. You tell someone you’re an Eagle Scout, and they know what that means. They’re always impressed. It’s really prepared me and made us really well-rounded in the experiences we’ve gotten to have. Make sure you get it done. I still carry the card in my wallet that I’m an Eagle Scout.
BRYAN: Thanks, guys, and good luck in London!
How to watch Grant and Ross (and cheer them on!)
To see how Grant and Ross got to the finals, watch the video of Team USA’s victory in the qualifying heats.
Grant and Ross competed in the Men’s Eight final at 5:30 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.
Read this AP story about Grant and Ross from earlier this month.
Grant James’ bio on U.S. Rowing site.
Ross James’ bio on U.S. Rowing site.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Rowing. Grant James is second from left, and Ross James is third from left.