For many athletes, competing in the Special Olympics World Winter Games meant traveling far from home -- and family. Fortunately for these seven competitors (and one passionately supportive sister), they arrived in Austria with a built-in support system: their twin!
Ruth and Tyler Charleston, 17, Great Britain
There are days when Ruth (left) and Tyler Charleston, identical twins on Great Britain's alpine ski team, wish they weren't one-half of a whole. But push past first appearances, and the teens are actually quite individual.
"Ruth likes different food and different music," said Tyler.
"Tyler has had more boyfriends," said Ruth, who has braces, a feature her teammates and coaches use to distinguish her from her younger sister (by one minute). "And Tyler talks more."
But most days, the 17-year-olds admit, being a twin is a whole lot of fun.
"We have our own language to communicate together," Ruth said.
"And on our 15th birthday," Tyler added, "we had a party and danced with our friends at our house."
Sharita and Shaye Taylor, 26, U.S.
Despite being fraternal twins, the Taylor sisters still enjoy swapping identities and fooling their family and friends once a year.
Sharita (right), who wears glasses, is known for her high-collared shirts and tie-dyed layers. Shaye wears a lot of blue. So each April Fool's Day, the 26-year-old figure skaters from Ohio dress up in each other's style.
"It took a lot of people a while to figure it out," said Sharita, who is competing in the World Winter Games. "Then they were like, 'Wait a minute!'"
But there's more to being a twin than pranking your parents. "You always have someone to talk to, someone to have your back when things get low," Sharita said.
"It's a lifelong friend, someone to cheer each other on," said Shaye, who came to Austria with Mom, Dad and 16-year-old brother Joey, to cheer on Sharita. "What would I do without her?
Added Joey: "What would I do without them? I'd be an only child. I'd be lonely!"
Christopher and Christian Lopez, 17, U.S.
The Lopez brothers, Christopher (left) and Christian, one of two sets of twins on the New York unified floor hockey team, giggled when they talked about how at age 17, they still dress alike.
"We tell our mom we don't want to but she always tells us, 'You're my babies.' You can leave when you're 21. I say, 'No, when we're 18 [on May 11]."
The New Yorkers are identical by birth but Christopher is slimmer, taller and has, well, bigger hair.
But, says Christopher, "I think he's the worse one."
"What?" Christian said. "You always get upset."
"I haven't gotten upset the whole week," said Christopher.
Jack and Max Zalta, 17, U.S.
Max (left) and Jack Zalta can agree it's OK to have their differences. But the fraternal twin brothers on the New York unified floor hockey team cannot come to terms on one difference in particular.
"I love [Alexander] Ovechkin," Max said of the captain of the Washington Capitals NHL team.
"I hate Ovechkin," said Jack.
The 17-year-olds say they can't remember a time when they weren't together. "Pre-school, pre-k, middle school, high school, it has just been the norm," Jack said.
"Jack and I have strong bonds," said Max.
Jack calls himself more outgoing and "more of a trailblazer," while Max says he likes to try to be a leader.
"Unlike Max, I'll yell out during games," Jack said. "When I see something, I'll say it, for better or worse. I don't always formulate my thoughts first. I'm more emotional, he's more reserved."
Both brothers say while they judge each other, it's generally constructive criticism.
Except, of course, when it comes to a certain hockey player.
"I hate Ovechkin," said Jack, "but both of us love the Rangers."
-- Reporting by Melissa Isaacson, Rebecca Nordquist and Alyssa Roenigk