ST. PETERS, Mo. -- For much of their lives, Troy and Justin Dumais were brothers in name only.
Even now, they must overcome the inevitable tensions that crop up when siblings spend too much time together.
Which makes this development all the more remarkable: the battling Dumais brothers are proving to be quite a team, earning a trip to the Athens Olympics in synchronized diving.
"They've always been different," their mother, Kathleen, said Thursday while sitting in the stands at the St. Peters Rec-Plex in suburban St. Louis. "But they know they need each other. Regardless of their differences, they need each other if they're going to bring home a medal."
Troy, 24, and Justin, one year older, were the first American divers to claim a spot on the Olympic team when they easily won 3-meter springboard at the trials Wednesday night.
They performed with precise coordination, scoring a perfect 10 on one dive and not faltering until their last time off the side-by-side boards. By then, their lead was so overwhelming it didn't matter - they had enough points to win without even making their final attempt.
Coming off a Grand Prix victory in Texas last month, the Dumais brothers are sure to be one of the favorites at the Olympics.
"They should win a medal," said their father, Marc. "I'm just not saying which color."
Both brothers readily concede their relationship has gone through plenty of rough spots. Troy displays a steely intensity, approaching every dive like it might be his last. Justin is more thoughtful, showing a willingness to conserve himself in the early rounds.
"Before college, we were competitors with the same last name," Justin said. "Brothers was a stretch."
Synchronized diving has brought them closer together, but it's not a cure-all. On Thursday, after placing third in the preliminaries on the 10-meter platform, Troy was quick to point out that Justin had botched their fourth dive.
"He missed it," Troy reported to his parents, a disapproving tone in his voice. His mother simply smiled. "They'll work it out," she whispered.
They wound up finishing second behind Mark Ruiz and Kyle Prandi, who claimed the Olympic berth. Troy moved on to the individual springboard, which he will be favored to win Friday night.
Growing up, Troy and Justin didn't feel a need to be all that close. Diving has always been an individual sport, a dynamic that didn't change even with the emergence of synchro over the past decade.
"You still have to do you thing," Troy said. "I have to do my dives, and I have to believe that when the time comes, he'll be ready. Because if you don't believe or don't trust him, then you're going to fall apart. You're going to fight and argue all the time."
"And that NEVER happens," Justin said sarcastically.
As a kid, Troy used to do backflips into a friend's backyard pool. His father sent him for lessons, discovering he had a knack for the challenging sport. Soon, the entire family was diving in.
All five kids - Justin and Troy have two younger brothers and a younger sister - were steered into diving by their parents, who realized there wasn't enough time to split their attention. The pool was 68 miles away from their southern California home. The children were given a choice: learn to dive or stay at the house.
"Our youngest son (Dwight, who is finishing up high school) really wanted to play ice hockey," Kathleen said. "But we convinced him that he needed to focus on liquid water instead of frozen water."
That single-minded dedication paid off. The oldest four all went to college on diving scholarships, and Dwight is expected to follow the same path.
For Troy, this will be his second Olympics. He competed in two events at Sydney, finishing sixth in the springboard and fourth in the 3-meter synchro with partner David Pichler.
Justin made his first Olympic team on his last try. He will retire from diving after Athens to pursue another passion: flying jets in either the Air Force or National Guard reserves.
He's not too concerned about going into the military while the country is embroiled in a potentially long-term war against terrorists.
"There's a certain danger," Justin said. "But I'm sure they train you for it. I know it's the job I want to do, and I would love to have the opportunity to do it."
Justin had to overcome a debilitating thyroid condition that struck in December, causing him to lose 15 pounds and making it difficult just getting out of bed.
The condition was initially diagnosed as Graves disease, a serious illness that also struck Olympic track star Gail Devers and would have prevented Justin from joining the military.
But a change in diet cured the symptoms quicker than expected, so the doctors are still trying to determine what went wrong. The illness also had an unexpected benefit, bringing the brothers closer together.
"We've had to learn to trust each other the last couple of months because I haven't been there physically," Justin said.
Finally, these brothers seem right in sync.