Having a competitive attitude and an inner drive to push oneself is integral to having success in sport. Ben and Joe Ur were born with a competitor to contend with: each other.
“We grew up competing with each other all the time,” says Joe, the captain of Dalhousie’s men’s swim team. His brother Ben was the captain and goalkeeper of the men’s soccer team and currently plays professionally in Israel. “We’re fiercely competitive, and we’ve grown up like that since we were six or seven years old. It’s been like that most of our lives,” says Joe.
When the family emigrated from Hackney in London, UK to Newfoundland and eventually Halifax, the Ur brothers competed against each other and in various sports on their own. “That’s pretty much been our lives, competing at everything, but nice competition. It wasn’t anything that we would get into a big fuss about,” says Joe.
After a strong career in both hockey and soccer, Ben devoted his attention to soccer while Joe focused on swimming. Their parents were supportive, but never pressured them athletically, according to Joe.
“They’ve always been about a very holistic approach I think. They’re both physicians so they both did extremely well in school, but at the same time they see that sports gives [sic] you an all-round experience, especially in university,” says Joe.
“I think they’ve always encouraged us to continue because they knew how good it was for us, they know that it really helped.”
Being just two years apart, there was enough parity to keep their competition evenly matched, but Joe still looks to Ben as an older brother. “I would like to think that we’re somewhat on an equal playing field, but I still see him as an older brother,” says Joe. “Whenever he introduces me to his friends, it’s ‘hey, this is my younger brother Joe’.”
This continued in Joe’s first years at Dal, where Ben was already established as the keeper on the soccer team and had led the Tigers to an Atlantic University Sports (AUS) title and an appearance at nationals. “He was pretty recognizable around campus in his heyday,” says Joe, who has carved out a successful national career with the swim team.
“I don’t mind being associated with Ben, especially seeing as he’s a good athlete, and he’s my brother, I don’t mind being associated with it at all,” says Joe regarding if he ever felt frustrated by being known as ‘Ben’s little brother’. “I would hope he wouldn’t mind being associated with my name,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s definitely something I embraced as opposed to try and get rid of.”
Joe feels that their shared experience helps bring them together, even with Ben living six time zones away.
“Both of us have been fifth year [students], both of us have been captains of our teams, but I’ve been in a completely different sport than him in a completely different environment than him. He’s gone to different levels with his sport, I’ve gone to different levels with mine.”
While both brothers have supported each other, either from afar or in the stands, there is one thing that brings them together on the same team: pulling pranks on their younger sister Jessica, a promising high school swimmer in her own right.
“We asked [our mother, who was in on the joke] to tell my sister to go get something from the deep freezer in our garage for dinner while my brother hid in the deep freezer wearing a mask,” reminisces Joe with a smile. “She got very, very scared when she opened it. I think that’s a big bonding thing for us.”
In the case of the Ur brothers, a friendly sibling rivalry has led to two determined athletes and contributed to their respective successes. “Having him as an older brother that does sports has definitely helped and contributed to my competitive nature,” says Joe.
A lifelong sports fan, Benjamin Blum entered the world of journalism after suffering a concussion playing rugby for the University of King’s College. From that moment, his twin passions for writing and sports motivated the Thornhill, Ont. native to give this journalism thing a try. Having been an athlete, coach and fan for many years, Ben brings his diverse knowledge of sports along with a witty sense of humour to the sports section. Ben was Sports Editor of the Gazette for Volume 146.