In this May 7, 2012, shows American Olympic rowers Ross James, left, and his twin brother, Grant James, right, pose next to an Olympic flag at the rowing office in Oakland, Calif. Both will be competing in the London Olympics. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
OAKLAND, Calif. -- From their early days as bouncing Boy Scouts to the demanding journey of becoming Eagle Scouts, to their days as national champion shooters and, eventually, top-notch college rowers each studying engineering, twins Grant and Ross James have always taken parallel paths in life.
Both knew that could end as they chased their Olympic dream. One might make it, while the other stayed home.
Then, Ross landed the last seat in the U.S. eight boat that captured the final spot in the eight-country Olympic field.
They're off to London as Olympic teammates, rowing in neighboring seats to boot.
"We've had a lot of similar experiences," said Ross, who is four minutes younger. "We've been doing a lot of things throughout our life together and we've accomplished a lot of things together, so it's nice to continue that trend of being with your twin brother. I like to think of him like another teammate. It's tough, because we won't always be in the same boat or the same situations."
For now, they're thrilled with this rare opportunity -- and so is their proud mother, Cindy Warren-James, who raised them on her own. Had things gone differently just a few months back, the brothers wouldn't be together now.
As the final spot came down to Ross and another rower in late April, Grant excused himself when the rest of the athletes gave their nominations for who should make the boat.
"The last couple days it was between myself and another rower for the very last seat in the boat, so that's when it came down to, would both of us go or not?" Ross recalled. "It's not easy. The whole five months wasn't easy. It was pretty stressful. That's part of it. If at that stage you can handle that level of stress, at the Olympics it's going to be an even higher level of stress. The easy part was going out and racing."
Teammate Giuseppe Lanzone called it a "very hard decision," but credited Ross for earning the spot. Coach Mike Teti said Ross was the most consistent. US Rowing formally named them to the Olympic roster Tuesday.
The 24-year-old twins credit their do-everything mother for preparing them for just about anything. A first-grade teacher, she had a family support system within 100 miles of their home in DeKalb, Ill.
Warren-James did all she could to expose her boys to a range of activities, and is quick to thank everyone generous enough to share their expertise along the way. She encouraged adventure and exploration.
And her sons -- tough to tell apart on the water when sporting similar red workout caps, though not identical twins -- are quick to credit her hard work and tireless energy.
"I don't know how she did it," Ross said.
Warren-James was the boys' Scouts leader from the time they were 6 to 18. Starting when they were sixth-graders, she took them camping once a month every year -- no matter the conditions.
"I wasn't just pulling things out of a hat, I knew where I was going and I had the right plans. It worked out well," said Warren-James, whose sons passed her up in height in fourth grade. "As a parent, you know that things don't just happen. You have to have a plan. The plan was always to surround them with good people and find good activities that brought a lot of value that helped them learn about themselves. They had lots of chances to try things and with that they learned a lot about themselves."
These two were on the boat that failed to qualify for the Olympics at last year's world championships in Slovenia, forcing the Americans to win the final qualifying regatta at Lucerne, Switzerland, in May to earn the last Olympic spot. That was a first in the modern Olympic era that US Rowing hadn't secured a place for the boat at worlds.
Both were determined to do their part the next time.
Known for cooking staples such as large casseroles and homemade chili in the Bay Area home shared by the nine athletes, they always make more than enough to fuel their enormous appetites. Typically, the twins take in an astonishing 8,000 calories each day.
"Maybe we need more," Grant quipped.
They are self-taught in the kitchen, starting when they were on their own in college. They had no choice given how much food they need.
"I think they could do a cook-off and beat me hands down," Warren-James said of her boys. "They've had to just to keep enough calories around. I'm very impressed. They've done a great job of cooking and eating. They mix it up, that's what surprises me. They do lots of great breakfasts, sausage and eggs and potatoes, and they're always packing a sandwich and banana along with them."
It's the twins who brought a shirt for everyone on the boat to sign for a young boy with health problems who came out to a recent practice.
"They're good kids," Teti said. "They're respectful. Without question, this is the easiest group of athletes I've ever worked with. It's very unusual, there are no slackers in the group."
The James twins came to rowing by chance, really.
Before college, a postcard arrived at their home seeking athletes 6-foot-2 or taller to consider trying out for the crew team at Wisconsin. They figured why not? They were 6-foot-5 and thought it might be a good activity and way to make friends that didn't involve playing basketball. At freshman orientation, the coaches charged at them in full-on recruiting mode.
"Our freshman year, we didn't know anything about rowing," Grant recalled. "We kept showing up every day and we'd win a few races. It felt good, and after that we got hooked."
They also are two of six engineers among the nine athletes on the boat, a group that includes first-time Olympian coxswain Zach Vlahos.
"There's a dynamic there," teammate Jake Cornelius said. "It's fun having them in the boat. It happens not infrequently in rowing. You bump into it more frequently than on a football team, just because of the nature of the sport. If you always have a built-in pair partner, you grow up doing that together."
Except these two didn't. They were busy trying out just about everything else along the way. Each captured 2006 national titles in high-power rifle marksmanship -- and shooting is something they plan to do again one day once they're no longer rowing.
"First, he's a teammate, and at the same time he's my twin brother, so there's a little higher level of connection there, so that makes it pretty cool," Ross said.Their mother prepared for the possibility that only one would be an Olympian. She didn't want to be let down if it turned out that way. Instead, she's headed to London to root on both of her boys.
"People always have asked, 'What if only one was chosen?"' she said. "We all knew it could happen. They're not Siamese twins; you don't get two for one."
The brothers so hoped to add the Olympics to their long list of shared triumphs. They tried not to think about the pressure of actually making it happen, instead pouring all of their energy into training and preparation.
"I definitely wanted him to make the team," Grant said. "You'd hate to have him miss out."
Not these two. They're sticking together for this special month ahead just as they always have.