Alex and Dani Dujshebaev: The 'Gasol brothers' of Spain's handball and their living legend father
Spanish handball stars Alex and Dani Dujshebaev had a lot to live up to.
Dad Talant Dujshebaev won Olympic gold at Barcelona '92, bronze at Atlanta '96 and Sydney 2000, the world champs, the Champions League multiple times as a player and a coach, was voted IHF player of the year twice, and named the second best player of the 20th century behind only Swedish great Magnus Wislander.
Now Dani (Born 1997) and Alex (1992) are making their own mark in the game. Both are European champions - something dad never achieved - helping Spain to successfully defend their European Championship title in January 2020, meaning Spain has qualified to play at Tokyo 2020 in 2021.
"Sometimes we had to work harder because of the name on the shirt," Alex Dujshebaev told El Español at the 2019 world champs. Dani has also talked about all the extra training sessions with dad growing up.
Now all three are united at Polish club Kielce, where their father is once again their coach, and you feel so much more is to come from this family unit.
When Dani was asked about this comparison to Marc and Pau Gasol brothers last year he answered "ojalá" in Spanish, which means "let's hope so".
Talant Dujshebaev: Spanish hero born in Kyrgyzstan
The brothers were born into handball. Their father's greatness is undisputed, but their mother also played as a goalkeeper for the Soviet Union.
Apart from all that handball genetic code, the two inherited another essential from their parents: height. Alex stands at 1.87m (6'2) tall and Dani is an imposing 1.97m (6'6).
Growing up around the game was a huge factor too, both parents qualified to play for the post-Soviet era Unified Team at Barcelona '92, but a few months before, Olga Dujshebaev discovered she was pregnant with Alex and didn't play.
Her husband Talant went to Barcelona and shone.
Born in Frunze in northern Kyrgyzstan in 1968 - part of the Soviet Union at that time, he took up handball to get out of the cold with his friends, developed his talent quickly at his local club and at 18 was called to play with CSKA Moscow, completing his military service at the same time.
Adding discipline to a natural determination, Dujshebaev quickly became arguably the best player in the world.
He set the Barcelona Olympic handball competition alight in 1992, finishing as top scorer with 47 goals and winning gold.
Spain fell in love with this mercurial, unpredictable centre back who could arm attacks, find amazing assists, receive with his back to goal, see spaces in brick wall defences, invent impossible angles, and conjure goals from almost anywhere.
The offers poured in from clubs across the Spanish league and Teka Cantabria convinced him to sign. Spain may have fallen in love with him, but he also fell in love with Spain in Santander, the capital of Cantabria, with its soaring cathedrals and sweeping coastlines.
By 1995 Talant had a Spanish passport, "I'm a citizen of the world," he said, after leading Teka Cantabria to their only Champions League title ever in 93/94, before becoming a legend at Ciudad Real in Castile-La Mancha and leading the Spanish national team to two Olympic and three European podiums.
"Handball players are gladiators who go out into the arena every weekend fighting to the death on the court. - Talant Dujshebaev to Informe Robinson
At Ciudad Real in the Quijote Arena two little lads played on the sidelines, vaguely aware of the history their superhero dad was making, going from worshipped player to all-conquering coach.
"I learned about the game between watching cartoons," the younger Dani told El Español, “Oliver and Benji (Manga series Captain Tsubasa in English), Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball.”
But with dad's love of and commitment to handball passing on to his two young handball prospects, it was clear that the brothers were future stars from a young age.
Alex Dujshebaev: Mr. consistent
Alex cut his teeth at Ciudad Real under dad's watchful eye before playing at La Rioja, Aragon, and moving to Macedonia to play with RK Vardar where he won the Champions League in 2016/17 alongside Timur Dibirov and Kiril Lazarov.
He plays at right back and has an instinctive understanding of the game, a team player with strong defensive skills, physical and technical qualities that make him a nightmare to mark, and a predatory eye for goal.
Alex was crucial for Spain in both the 2018 and 2020 Euro victories. In 2018 he made the All-Star Team in the right back position and in 2020 scored 37 times - including a 110kmh goal in the final against Domagoj Duvnjak's Croatia.
The family was reunited at Kielce in Poland in 2017, dad as coach with Alex and Dani playing, and now there's another generation too.
Future handball star?
Dani Dujshebaev: Rising
Dani is explosive on the court, even though his father says he's the calmest and quietest in the family off it, "he's like his mother," said dad, laughing, to El Mundo last year.
He was a stand-out part of the golden generation that won Spain's first ever junior world title in 96/97 and is growing into a dominant, free scoring centre-back - a bit like the old man.
Now, with the Olympics set for summer 2021 and Spain already qualified and motivated by the pain of missing Rio 2016, the stage looks set for this Dujshebaev double-act to make their own case for greatness.
Alex will be 28 and Dani 24 in Tokyo, the year's delay allowing the younger brother to get that bit stronger and with another year of experience under his belt.
This incredible family handball fairy tale may have another exciting chapter at the Games, with dad - a three-time Olympic medallist - proudly watching his two sons step up onto on an Olympic podium together for the first time.