Katelin Snyder and Nareg Guregian have an awful lot of planning going on right now, not the least of which is for a wedding at the end of the year.
Yet they still catch themselves when one of them uses a phrase such as, “When we get back from Rio.”
“There have definitely been times, mostly for me, where we’ll be talking and I can’t focus on what she’s saying for about five seconds because all I can think is, ‘We’re going to Rio,’” Guregian said. “I have to stop her and say, ‘We’re going to Rio.’ I’m probably annoying her, but I don’t care.”
Both Snyder, 28, and Guregian, 27, will represent the United States at next month’s Olympic Games in rowing. Snyder is the coxswain of the women’s eight boat, which has dominated the world circuit for 10 years, and Guregian will compete in the men’s pair.
The pair met in Princeton in early summer 2013 after Snyder’s season coaching at Loyola Marymount ended and she rejoined the U.S. national team. Guregian was already there training with the team, and they met when she spent the night at his host family’s house while waiting to join her own host family.
The next day, he asked her out.
“Halfway through dinner, I had to tell her it was a date,” he said.
Snyder said she was mortified.
“We were in the boathouse and he was like, ‘Do you want to grab something to eat?’ And I just figured he was thinking, ‘You don’t know anyone, you stayed at my house, do you want to hang out?’” she said. “I was like, ‘Of course I want to hang out; I don’t have any friends.’ And it ended up being a date.”
More dates followed, however, and although neither one said there was a defining moment when they heard wedding bells in their heads, they both soon just knew.
“He’s always really appreciated me for who I am,” Snyder said. “I just always felt so comfortable that I never felt like I wanted to be with anyone else, or wanted to be without him.”
Guregian not only enjoyed her company but also loved how easy she was to talk to and how smart she was. He proposed in 2015 after the team wrapped up its training camp in Chula Vista, California, and she said yes.
Since rejoining the women’s team in 2013, Snyder’s coxswain career has progressed at a steady pace. With Snyder replacing longtime coxswain Mary Whipple, the dynastic women’s eight boat ran its string of world and Olympic titles to 10 with championships in 2013, ’14 and ’15. They are favored to win gold in Rio.
For Guregian, the future has often appeared murkier. He struggled through ups and downs and found himself making some teams and left off others. There were many disappointments. Throughout it all, he said, Snyder’s support helped keep him level.
“She’d help keep me motivated and focused on the end goal and focused on how to achieve that goal, not just saying, ‘You’re great, you’re going to do it,’ but more, ‘Hey, if you want to get better, you have to do this, this and this,’” Guregian said. “She’s always been really honest with me, and that’s what I appreciate about her.”
On June 21, Snyder was officially named to the women’s eight boat that will represent the United States in Rio, but there was never really any deliberation as to her spot on the team. Guregian, however, had been in contention for the men’s eight and four crews but was cut in April.
He quickly found partner Anders Weiss and began training to qualify as a pair at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials II on June 22 in West Windsor, New Jersey. They beat out 20 men, including five Olympians, to become the last two rowers named to the team that goes to Rio next month.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I think the easiest way to say it is it was probably as good a feeling as anyone would expect. Crossing the finish line like that was the way you’d assume you’d feel — elation, happiness, just this really happy feeling.”
Snyder said as tough as it had been to see Guregian so down after the disappointments of being cut from teams, to see him rebound immediately, find a partner, find a coach, get a training plan and in two months go after what he wanted with success was amazing.
“It was absolutely the greatest day of my life to realize that he made it and we’re both going to go (to Rio),” Snyder said.
Snyder doesn’t expect they’ll see much of each other once in Rio leading up to their respective races. They do look forward, however, to watching each other race, having time to explore Rio and watching some of the other sports together after it’s over.
Four months later, they’ll tie the knot in Florida.
It isn’t often that couples can both say they’re Olympians, let alone go to the Games and get married all in the same year. It’s hard to imagine a better year than 2016, Guregian admitted.
“That’s a great question,” he said. “This year has been pretty awesome. I don’t know, maybe next year we’ll win $500 million in the lottery. That’d be up there. Other than that, I can’t really imagine too many things topping it.”