During a typical competition, Victoria and Brittany Maiden will toss their silver-and-white batons and triple spin in unison, ponytails streaming, their eyes focused on the black tape wrapped around the batons’ shafts so they don’t lose sight of them against the silver-and-white ceiling. They’ll make their catches behind their backs, toes pointed, just as they have practiced every day, for three hours a day, for most of their shared life. Every move is choreographed. They can’t improvise like solo twirling competitors because everyone is expecting perfect harmony from the pair.
“That wasn’t me!” Victoria (Col ’13) will text to her friends if things don’t go exactly right. “That wasn’t me!” Brittany (Col ’13) will text to hers.
In the other each has a mirror, a scapegoat, a partner in adventures, that closest of allies, a twin.
The so-called Sabre Twins, who were the featured twirlers for the Cavalier Marching Band for two years before their graduation in 2013, are not identical, although they apply their performance makeup to look as if they are. Born at 26 weeks and weighing under 3 pounds each, they were not expected to live, let alone become champion athletes.
They started twirling when they were 5 years old, began competing two years later and in 2004, at the age of 16, they won their first Grand National and World Open Duet Championship.
They won their second in 2007, and soon after UVA band director William Pease saw them them performing a routine on TV. He contacted the twins and encouraged them to attend Piedmont Virginia Community College, which would allow them to march with the Cavaliers while working toward admission to UVA. They rented an apartment a few miles from both campuses, shared a car and friends and occasional classes before transferring to the University.
“There was nothing like the first game when we were officially UVA students and on the field,” Victoria says. “We felt like we were ultimately a part of something.”
They argued often before games. Brittany would want to do open tosses and a cartwheel or juggle fire —“Let’s go for it!”— while the ever cautious Victoria would point to weather predictions of rain or wind to try to persuade her sister that they should play it safe.
“They not only compete together, they compete against each other,” says their mother, Kim Maiden. “If one of them slips a bit, the other excels, and then the first races to catch up. They feed off of each other.”
But they remain friends through it all. “You can’t be a twin and not be friends; that’s a waste of a twin,” Victoria says.
In 2013— overwhelmed by jobs, pageant preparation and graduate school—they stopped twirling. But earlier this year they decided to take one more shot at taking the gold at nationals, and when they won, they qualified for the world championships in Italy, which are only held every three years.
They’re living separately now for the first time in their lives. Brittany lives at home while she attends graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University in preparation for becoming a teacher. Victoria, meanwhile, lives in her own apartment and works full time in admissions for ECPI University. She’s also preparing for the Miss Virginia pageant for the sixth time, hoping to improve on her prior best of second runner-up and win enough scholarship money to study nonprofit management or become certified as a child life specialist for hospitalized children.
But they still practice together each morning at 5:30 to get ready for the worlds.
“I miss peforming at UVA football games,” Victoria says. “It was probably the best time we’ve had twirling together. There was no score sheet; we just got to have fun.”