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Indigenous twins Indi and Jack King share in each other's athletic lives

Andrew Mathieson -

Before Jack King, one half of the Instagram-tagged Sprint Kings along with twin sister Indi King, stood on his mark in a rookie-first Australian Junior Athletics Championships, the 12-year-old boy looked to his right only to discover a rival standing close to a foot taller.

He hurriedly came back to tell his mum after the national under-13 final that until the starter's gun was fired that he thought the tall and muscularly teen turned up to the wrong race.

"The boys that Jack competed against, just the size of them, you really couldn't believe it," Rishelle Hume, Jack's mum, laughs.

"Just the testosterone, the puberty and everything else.

"This boy in the lane beside Jack in the 100-metre final, he was just huge.

"He seemed like a foot and a half (46cms) taller than Jack.

"He was like, 'Mum, he's got all this hair under his arms', and I said, 'Jack, your time will come – it all pans out in time'."

The only Aboriginal competitor watched his rival, Jack Spencer of New South Wales, dash away ahead of him to a fifth in a new but expected experience for the diminutive Jack.

Not perturbed by his own ninth-place finish in the 100 final, he still can't remove the ear-to-ear grin weeks afterwards on talking of the incident.

"I was in just shock, and I thought he was an actual man," he joins his mum in chuckling away.

Jack King (right) competing at the recent Australian Junior Athletics Championships. (Image: supplied)

But the Noongar nation mum and the sprinting twins all of which have traditional ties to the Whadjuk, the Ballardong, and the Gnaala Karla Booja peoples are in for the long run – and for good reason.

When Jack and Indi King were both born, they had a false start to their lives.

Their unexpected births were akin to breaking out of the blocks well before the starter had even gripped his pistol.

Rishelle feared the worse from her second time in labour after a much taller, elder daughter, Dakota, went to full term.

"The twins were premature – very, very premature," Rishelle says.

"They were born at the age of 28 weeks.

"Indi was 900-something grams and Jack was about 1300 grams.

"They were tiny and spent the first three to four months in hospital.

"To come through that and to be at the level they are now is a huge achievement."

Their accomplishments in Adelaide last month against the best emerging talent across the country extended to reaching four individual finals and another in a relay that produced the family two medals for their state at the pair's first attempt on a national stage.

But that pales into comparison to their selfless life objectives stepping off the track as role models for their First Nations peers.

Indi pops in and says, "I just want to inspire others", before Jack almost finishes his twin sister's sentence with "...inspire other Aboriginal kids to be like us to work hard".

"To also have the same dream," Rishelle then adds before Jack intervenes again, "and that anything is possible".

They are showing others, by example, that after being born premature that a stumble out of the life's blocks doesn't determine their journey to the finish line.

Jack and Indi are also the youth ambassadors for West Australian Charity Direct, Helping Little Hands that has disbursed more than $3.7 million towards assisting premature care babies.

The twins also won the state's NAIDOC youth ambassadorial awards last year that is ultimately close to their cultural hearts.

"In WA here, a particular high percentage of the babies, are Aboriginal," Rishelle says.

"I think that's anomaly – I really don't know why.

"But that is just something the twins do to give back to our communities.

"In their first year (of life), Indi used to walk and run, and fall over.

"But every year they have just got better and better at running."

Health professionals have assured that both of the twins will be above average size by the time they fully reach adulthood.

Dad Matthew King is around 190cm tall that 15-year-old daughter Dakota is not that far behind, so the height is their genetics somewhere ready to emerge.

The King family. (Image: supplied)

His wife, an accomplished former javelin and discus thrower of some national note, was wary of the lack of size of the twins that has continued for years through their early childhood.

She wanted to improve their hand-eye coordination, so the twins were registered for Little Athletics early on during the summer after first attending primary school.

And they were good, almost defying their size for six-year-olds right from the start but have never quite followed in their mum's notable footsteps.

"I actually still hold the under-9 girls discus Australian record – after 42 years, it still stands, and I hold five or six WA state records in field events," Rishelle says.

"I mean I was a thrower, but the kids are runners – they just can't throw."

But they can run, and with a leg turnover, so good that one of Western Australia's top junior coaches is predicting both of the siblings will peak against senior competition.

Lyn Foreman is someone that in WA Athletics that has a coaching record second to none after carving out a stellar career.

She was a star 400-metre hurdler that held four national titles from 1975 until 1981 before Debbie Flintoff-King bumped Foreman, a one-time Olympian, off the podium through the rest of the 1980s.

"Our coach has said to us that it's about the journey, not the now – it's about when the kids grow and develop when they're bigger around 15, 16 and 17 when it all starts to pan out," Rishelle says.

"It's really about where they want to be at 20 or 21, so we know we are on that right path."

The twins are working on just sprinting, anything from the 100 to the 400 metres.

A short break at the end of athletics competition in autumn is followed by a calculated step-by-step preseason that includes beach running before hitting a new season with vigour.

"We just love athletics – that's one of our favourite things?" they both say in unison.

No football games nor basketball, and not a hint of other sports creeping into their offseason on the advice of not only their coach to maintain their focus on the only sporting activity the 12-year-olds are passionate about.

"That's when I asked Lyn do they have the goods and she said they're very talented – we just need to keep up with them and nurture them," Rishelle says.

It's also advice that respected family Elder Barry McGuire, prominent in many WA communities, once advised the twins to "stay in your lane and do the one thing" so to avoid injuries.

The Indigenous Emerging Business Forum also have had a financial hand to back in the Kings after Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls, a former early AFL draft selection with Richmond before crossing over to West Coast, was one of their loudest supporters.

The friend of the family was always up to delivering inspirational quotes for the twins, but he also put his words into action.

"We need more not just football players," Rishelle says Oakley-Nicholls first told the Indigenous Business Forum board.

"These kids are doing athletics and we need to help them."

That support went part of the way in Adelaide towards establishing bigger dreams.

Next year's national championship will be held in Perth and that has motivated Jack to improve on a fourth in the 400m final after running a personal best in Adelaide.

"It makes me want more to win a medal because it'll be in front of my home crowd," he says.

Indi went one place better and claimed a 400m bronze medal in a personal best inside 59 seconds.

Records indicate that Indi is running just four seconds behind the standard times for the open women's at the state championships.

So highly is she regarded that the 12-year-old skipped an age group for the 200m relay and ran one of the four legs for the under-14s girls to ensure a silver medal.

At their junior state championships last year when Indi was still just 11 years old, she unbelievably was crowned the 400m under-14 champion.

"They have only just turned 12 together," Rishelle adds.

"She's running that time (0.59) now while the best women in WA here on a Saturday night are 55 or even 56s.

"So Indi is nearly in A grade running."

While the pair idolise Indigenous role models Cathy Freeman and the emerging Caleb Law, their humble beginnings together leaves some of the admiration intact for each other.

"When one doesn't see the other, Jack be like, 'Where's Indi?'," Rishelle says.

"They are always there for each other.

"They're that connected."


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