Photos courtesy: Lindsay Jennerich, Malindi Elmore, Athletics Canada, Julia Murray, Kelly Vanderbeek

Olympians Celebrate Love

Roman mythology implies Cupid’s arrow can strike at any time. It could happen in a classroom, at work, in a mall or a park. So why not the field of play for Canada’s Olympians?

On this Valentine’s Day, many athletes will be spending the day together after forming a bond strengthened by sport. For Athletics Canada, teammates Justyn Warner (Markham, ON) and Nikkita Holder-Warner (Pickering, ON), this February 14th will mark their first one together as husband and wife after the couple got married on October 12, 2012.

Childhood friends since the age of 13, the two had a 2012 to remember. Both won national titles, Justyn in the 100-metres and Nikkita in the 100-metre hurdles, and together they earned the right to represent their country at the London Olympic Games. With the help of family, the self proclaimed fastest couple in Canada was somehow able to plan a wedding when not chasing down the world’s quickest times.

“Preparation was super stressful,” said Holder. “But the day went so well. It was amazing and went by so quick. Within a blink of an eye it was over and I was sad and depressed.”

Both have credited each other with excelling in their respective sports noting how much easier life is your partner understands your training and travelling schedules.

“It brings a balance to both of us and our relationships,” said Warner. “Sometimes it’s hectic and sometimes it goes easy. But we definitely can count our success for the two of us and we push each other along. We wouldn’t be where we are without each other.”

Photo courtesy Lindsay Jennerich

Rowing introduced Gabe Bergen and Lindsay Jennerich and has allowed them to travel the world together including to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Photo courtesy Lindsay Jennerich

Rowing Toward Love

Education and Rowing brought Olympians Victoria, BC residents Gabe Bergen and Lindsay Jennerich together. The alumni University of Victoria have developed quite the resume since becoming a couple, including attending five World Championships, one Olympic Games and numerous World Cups together, not to mention rowing thousands of hours with the same training group.

“I know that my success in rowing would have been far less had it not been for the unyielding and unconditional support that Gabe has offered through the years,” said Jennerich, the 2010 lightweight double sculls world champion with partner Tracy Cameron. “Words do not explain what it means to have someone who understands your goals and is trying to achieving them right alongside you.”

An Awkward First Encounter

Malindi Elmore (Kelowna, BC) didn’t expect to meet future husband Graham Hood (Winnipeg, MN) as a 16-year-old girl competing at the Harry Jerome track meet in 1996. Nor did she expect to be presenting him flowers after he had captured the 1500m title because of a lost coin toss. But that’s what happened that fateful day at the Abbotsford Rotary Stadium in Abbotsford, BC, when Elmore was tasked along with another athlete to present the winners’ bouquets to the men’s and women’s 1500m champions.  The only problem was that both Melindi and the other volunteer wanted to present to the women. Elmore was anxious to meet her idols, while the other volunteer had a crush on a cute blond also in the race. After losing the coin toss, Melindi was left to thrust the winner’s bouquet into her future husband’s sweaty palms.

Elmore said years passed and their paths would cross periodically, but nothing more came of it until a post-track meet party in 2004 made them realize how much more they had in common beyond simply being a middle distance runner – Elmore represented Canada in the 1,500m in 2004 and Hood represented Canada in 1992 and 1996 in the same event. Living in different cities never stopped these two from exploring what potential they may have as a couple. As athletes, it was quite appropriate their long distance relationship was built on airport stop-overs, email, overseas Skype calls and track meet reunion.

“It worked though, and we found ourselves engaged and married a few years later,” said Elmore. “And those flowers from way back then? Who knows what role they played in the whole story, but it is cute to think back to being 16 and 90 pounds soaking wet with braces and an experimental haircut giving flowers to the man that I would marry 11 years later…and that we would live happily ever after.”

Photo courtesy Julia Murray

Julia Murray and Davey Barr knew each other as kids and would later go on to become pioneers of the sport of ski cross and Olympians. Photo courtesy of Julia Murray

Romance in Whistler

They knew each other nearly their whole lives. Vancouver natives Davey Barr and Julia Murray had no idea growing up in Whistler would one day lead to romance as a couple. The 13-year-old Barr would stack wood for Murray’s mom when Julia was a tiny two-year-old. Later in life they would end up living together and competing in ski cross at the 2010 Olympic Games in their hometown. Both athletes have now retired as original members of the Canadian ski cross team, which began competing in 2007-08, but according to Murray their love continues to flourish because of the little things they try to do for each other.

“Every day we try to do a little something special for each other,” said Murray. “Randomly we hide gifts for each other around the house. Never stop doing what you love with your loved one — it reminds you why you love them.”

Luck on Love’s Side

A chance meeting set up Olympians Kelly VanderBeek (Kitchener, ON) and David Ford (Edmonton, AB). VanderBeek, a skier by trade, and Ford, a five-time Olympic kayaker, were late additions to a press event in Toronto more than a decade ago. And as they say “the rest is history”.

“Happily for us, we made the journey, since this was the beginning of what became a sporting love story,” said VanderBeek.  “Now together for over 10 years we were married three-and-a-half years ago on BC’s Sunshine Coast. Sport brought us together, binds us today, and will keep us experiencing life’s adventures moving forward.”

As proven by many members of the Canadian Olympic Team and their fans across the country … sport is truly romantic.

– George Fadel