Lonely Planet Writer

Trio to Rio: meet the Estonian triplets running to make history at the Olympics

Leila, Liina and Lily Luik are triplets from Estonia who are headed to Rio to compete in this year’s Olympics.

Leila, Liina, Lily Luik.
Leila, Liina, Lily Luik. Image by triotorio

The three will compete in the women’s marathon in August, and are believed to be the first set of triplets to ever qualify for the games.

The 30-year old triplets were born prematurely, but that hasn’t stopped them from running their way to Rio, even though they only began running competitively six years ago.

With my lovely sisters 🐥🐥🐥 #kumadesign #triotorio #sisters

A photo posted by Leila Luik (@leila.luik) on May 26, 2016 at 8:51am PDT

The triplets were professional hip-hop dancers and dance teachers before they turned to running, a skill their coach credits with contributing to their success on the track. When a colleague suggested they take up competitive running in 2010, they never looked back.

Estonia has a population of only 1.2 million, and the sisters managed to qualify for each of the three marathon positions allocated to each country in the Olympics.

Dubbed the Trio to Rio, the sisters encourage each other and provide support during training. “Three together, we get so much energy from each other,” Leila said. “No one wants to be the slowest. We push, push, push.”

The one downside to competing as a triplet is that sometimes commentators and officials get confused by which triplet is which.

The triplets will be competing alongside German twins, Anna and Lisa Hahner, who will also run the women’s marathon. Surprisingly, there have been two hundred different sets of twins that have taken part in the Olympics, largely in the same events.

Leila’s personal best time is 2 hours 37 minutes, Liina’s is 2 hours 29 minutes, and Lily’s is 2 hours 40 minutes. The current Olympic record is 2 hours 23 minutes, claimed by Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana in 2012.

While the sisters aren’t expected to take home a medal at this year’s competition, they hope their Rio appearance will inspire Estonian ladies to consider distance running, and show that it’s never too late to start running professionally.