The James Brothers bring images of stagecoach and bank robberies and the Wild West. Jesse and Frank James were part of the James-Younger Gang, a group of gunslingers during the mid to late 1800s, who wreaked havoc by robbing banks in places like Kentucky, Minnesota and Missouri, as well as trains and stagecoaches throughout the Union and the Confederacy following the Civil War. They were notorious for staying just ahead of those trying to catch them.
Grant and Ross James also make up a pair of gunslingers – both were part of the championship team at the 2006 High Power Rifle Marksmanship National Championships. Illinois natives, a state which happens to border Missouri, the home state of the notorious James Brothers, the new duo now wreaks havoc on the world of rowing and is currently on one of the most incredible of winnings streaks.
After winning the gold medal in the men’s eight at the 2008 FISA World Under-23 Rowing Championships this past Sunday, by open water no less, the twin brothers would be hard pressed to remember what it is like not to win a race. The U.S. men’s eight was perfect in its three races on its way to the gold medal.
If you look back to the beginning of June, the new James brothers and the Wisconsin men’s eight completed an undefeated season with the 2008 Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships varsity eight crown. They were perfect through the heats, semifinals and grand final, upsetting No. 1 and previously unbeaten Washington to claim the national championship.
Before that, the UW men’s eight, with Grant rowing in the stroke seat and Ross right behind in the No. 7 seat, as they have throughout the remarkable run, knocked off Navy for the Walsh Cup on the Severn River in Annapolis, Md. In mid-May, that same UW boat captured the 2008 EARC Conference Championship, giving the Badgers their third Eastern Sprints title since the event began in 1946. Victories over Boston University and M.I.T. for the Jablonic Cup, Dartmouth for the Cochrane Cup, then-No. 4 California and then-No. 8 Stanford, all on the road, as well as Minnesota, gave the Badgers their perfect spring record.
To be fair, Wisconsin and the James Brothers did actually lose a race back on Oct. 21, 2007. The UW men’s eight placed second at the storied Head of the Charles. The U.S. national team somehow managed to defeat the Badgers, who outpaced the rest of the 44-boat field that included mainly college crews.
“The appetizer for them was the club nationals last year,” said head coach Chris Clark. “I think they won the pair and the straight four by open water in both of them. Then they went up to the Canadian Henley and won the championship eight. Then they won the Head of the Charles in the collegiate division. Then they won the Eastern Sprints and then they won the IRA. Now they are world champions.
“I don’t know what to say. It is probably one of the remarkable runs of any collegiate oarsmen in memory. They have not had an oar in their hand any more than three years. It just shows you when you get the right kind of athlete with the aptitude for rowing; they pick it up very, very quickly. It is true of any sport, but they are very, very difficult to find. When you do, look out world, because here they are. They are on the scene.”