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Sunday, July 27, 2008

07/26/08 Winklevoss twins hope to form successful pair in Beijing

Tyler (left) and Cameron Winklevoss, posing with Arnold Schwarzenegger, hope to terminate the competition in Beijing.

(Kimberly White/Reuters)

Rowing machines

The Boston Globe

PRINCETON, N.J. - Lake Carnegie lies still and brown under the gathering summer sun, the early hour no match for the heat of July.

A pretty stone bridge arches across the man-made lake, which stretches along the Princeton University campus toward Kingston. It's not yet 8 o'clock, but the pastoral calm is repeatedly undercut by the whine of cars and trucks as rush hour takes over this idyllic college town.

Across the placid surface of the lake, three boats are pounding down the meters: the United States Olympic women's heavyweight eight, the women's four, and the men's sweep pair. In the pair, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, 26-year-old twins from Greenwich, Conn., pull smoothly and strongly. Their strokes are identical, but mirror images: lefthanded Cameron pulls the oar on the starboard side from the bow seat and righthanded Tyler pulls the oar on the port side and steers, moving the rudder with his foot on a toeplate. Their bodies, carbon copies, move like an assembly line, four legs pushing away simultaneously, four arms stretching and flexing in unison, their faces identically stonefaced, eyes protected by identical sunglasses. Cameron bites his lip as he strokes.

In the final 50 yards, they pull harder and faster, while US pairs coach Ted Nash, chugging alongside in the launch, urges them on. They pull past the buoy markers just about even with the eight, then double over, spent, as Nash triumphantly clicks his stopwatch.

"I'm very proud of them," said Nash. "That was a good piece."

Tyler and Cameron have peppered newspaper headlines and business gossip columns for the last four years after they and classmate Divya Narendra sued fellow Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg for, they believe, stealing Facebook. Their complaint to the Harvard disciplinary board, which was followed by the lawsuit, claimed the trio paid Zuckerberg to write computer codes for their nascent online social networking site and that he abandoned their project, and instead launched Facebook as his own. Zuckerberg is now a paper billionaire and ConnectU, the twins' site, has floundered.

In February, a settlement was reached requiring Facebook to give Narendra and the Winklevosses a chunk of change and stock. But litigation is ongoing as the parties dispute the worth of Facebook, and thus the worth of its stock. To further muddy the water, another Harvard student, Aaron Greenspan, claims he invented a Facebook-like website months before Zuckerberg.

The Winklevosses have taken a lot of guff about the lawsuit, because it's fun to ridicule Harvard, and because they have a background that includes Greenwich, summers in Quogue, and prep school. Also, they are impossibly constructed: 6 feet 5 inches tall, with shoulders that jut out like coat hangers, their limbs wrapped in the long, strong muscles typical of rowers, their heads crowned with identical waves of light brown hair. But the Winklevosses escape easy characterization.



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