German identical twins Ramona and Carmen Brussig can often be seen hand in hand, wrapped up in their own private world, making up for the past year when the siblings were torn apart by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We always need each other because we are very close. We cannot be alone, and the older we get, the closer we become," Brussig said. “So the past year was very hard. We could not see each other, only telephone."
The sisters share everything, from their birthdays and looks to their 35-year journey in judo and successful track records across multiple Paralympic Games. Carmen moved to Switzerland 19 years ago, while her sister remained in Germany.
The distance never posed a problem as they often met and trained together on the national team. But that changed during the Covid pandemic as they were not able to meet in person.
“The travel was not possible. I could not go to Germany, and she could not come to me,” Carmen said. “In 2021, it’s possible, but in 2020 not possible. During coronavirus, we only had FaceTime."
However, they are reunited for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The twins stepped on to the judo mat for the first time on the same day when they were nine years old.
"We love judo," Carmen said. "When we were younger, we began with chess. Our family is a chess family and it was like a competition between chess and judo, and we said, 'No, judo is better'. "We never wanted to change the sport. It’s just judo, always."
Sister Ramona said: "Judo is a sport where the moves are more varied. It's not like swimming 100m or running 100m. Judo is always different. Swimming or running is so monotone.”
Tokyo 2020 will be the fourth Paralympic Games at which the Brussigs have competed together. Ramona also represented the family alone at Athens 2004.
They have each won a medal at every Paralympic Games they have attended, including dual gold at London 2012 - Ramona in the women's -52kg weight class and Carmen in the -48kg.
And while their medals are kept in separate countries, the tally is still a shared one.
“We have now won everything possible over our careers,” Carmen said. “I have my medals in Switzerland, and she has her medals in Germany, but we are family, so we count them as seven medals."