Pau and Marc Gasol have won NBA titles, World Championships, and top individual honours, but they are not the only Spanish brothers who have made an impact on the international basketball scene.
Introducing to you the Zarzuela twins. Alejandro and Pablo Zarzuela have not only represented Spain at international level, but also silver medal winners at a Games, just like the Gasol brothers.
Following in the footsteps of Pau and Marc, who won silver together as part of the same team in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, Alejandro and Pablo assisted Spain’s wheelchair basketball team to secure a historic silver medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.
We spoke to them about how playing as twin brothers in the same team affects their personal lives and what their dreams are for the future.
2016 was one of the most successful years the twin brothers have ever had in their wheelchair basketball careers. With their club team CD Ilunion, they won the Spanish league, the King´s Cup, and the European Champions Cup, and then finally they gained the silver medal in Rio de Janeiro with the national team, which was for both of them an unforgettable moment.
Alejandro said, “The games had already been incredible as an experience. The silver medal was a kind of final present. It was fantastic to enter into a final of the Paralympic Games. I still fly when I remember moments of Rio and when I hear songs that remind me of that.”
Pablo added, “A dream just came true. We went with the idea of fifth or sixth and we brought back the silver medal. I think we could not ask for more.
“If in your first games you get into the final and achieve a silver medal, you can sleep peacefully for a good time. Just after the medal it was a bit of disbelief and a lot of happiness, later on I became super proud of the work done and even more happy.” He said with a big smile.
Alejandro and Pablo were born on the 2nd April 1987 in Andalucia, both with spina bifida. They started playing wheelchair basketball in Jerez when they were 12 years old. As club wheelchair basketball players in Spain, they have played all but two seasons on the same team. This is a real pleasure for both of them. It makes them stronger and better on the court because they can always learn from each other and challenge each other.
Alejandro explained, “Well, that means being able to be away from my family but having a fundamental pillar at my side along the way, not only supporting me in necessary moments, but living the experiences together and sharing them, it gives a very special touch to any situation.”
But, of course, it is not all harmony at every moment. From time to time they also argue, Pablo informs us smiling, “Alejandro is the person which I have the most discussion with on the court, but we know each other very well and it’s just in the heat of the moment.”
“Yeah right, we are both very demanding and to have so much confidence between us sometimes is not that good,” Alejandro reacts laughing. To him wheelchair basketball is everything. It is the meaning of his life.
He explains, “It has brought me very special moments, the possibility to know lots of amazing people including my wife Vicky. I feel lucky for what the sport has given me.”
The sport also means a lot for Pablo. It is his way of life, his passion, which also demands a lot of discipline. He said, “A way to lead my life with as little sedentary as possible is the profession that I wanted to have since childhood and I have achieved this after a lot of dedication.”
So of course they both remember the first time when they discovered the thing that means so much to them. Pablo remembers his first training, “It was a little crazy because I was very strong and could not control the chair, I was on the floor more than I was in the chair, but this is what attracted me.”
Alejandro agreed, “I do not remember the first game I played, but I do remember the first time I got into the wheelchair. It was a feeling of freedom, it was incredible to be pushing up and down the court in the chair, so much contact without hurting me and just enjoying it so much.”
Today at the age of 30, they are two of the most successful wheelchair basketball players of their country, although it hasn’t always been easy or successful. The worst memory of Pablo’s career was not participating in the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and for Alejandro it was also difficult to play without his brother at this special tournament, but to win the silver medal in Rio together was more than a compensation.
So it is not a surprise that they have similar goals for the future in wheelchair basketball. Pablo explained, “I want to continue improving the many things I still have to improve and continue to harvest titles – I cannot get tired of that.” Alejandro said, “My goals are to improve day by day, to expand my range of action, and to continue enjoying what I do is very important to me. With the my club team it is to get the triple again and with the national team it is to win the European Championships but also to win the World Championships and Paralympic Games would be fantastic.”