Many people celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic home-cooked dinner, or a night at the movies, but for several Team USA couples that will be a hard task because these athletes are currently competing at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. One couple already earned a bronze medal… competing together!
There are at least seven couples representing Team USA in Korea – cross-country skiers Sophie Caldwell and Simi Hamilton, ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates, ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson and freestyle skier Torin Yater-Wallace, freestyle skier Kiley McKinnnon and Nordic combined athlete Taylor Fletcher, bobsledders Elana Meyers Taylor and Nic Taylor (Nic is an alternate), alpine skiers Laurenne Ross and Tommy Ford, and pairs figure skaters Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim.
Meanwhile, at least five U.S. Olympians are dating or married to athletes from other nations who are competing in PyeongChang, including speedskaters Heather Bergsma and Jorrit Bergsma (Netherlands), bobsledders Jamie Greubel Poser and Christian Poser (Germany), bobsledder Justin Olsen and Canadian skeleton athlete Mirela Rahneva, lugers Emily Sweeney and Dominik Fischnaller (Italy), freestyle skiers Brad Wilson and Audrey Robichaud (freestyle skiing).
But just because they’re busy representing the red, white and blue this month, doesn’t mean love has to take a backseat on Feb. 14. We asked them to share their love story.
Sophie Caldwell and Simi Hamilton, Cross-Country Skiing
Status: Dating since 2014
How They Met: Since they agreed that the cross-country skiing world is pretty small, Hamilton figured they “probably met for the first time when we were in our early teens.”
“The first time I really remember interacting with him was on my first world junior trip in 2008,” Caldwell said. “By the end of the trip I had a big crush on him. But I remember one of our other friends/teammates telling me he probably just thought I was a little girl and didn’t know who I was because I was three years younger!”
Who Asked Whom Out: Caldwell doesn’t “think there was really an official asking out,” the two-time Olympian shared. “We were teammates and after a year or so, I think we realized we had feelings for each other that were a little stronger than just a friendship.” Hamilton agreed, and remembered a trip to her home in southern Vermont early on in their relationship. He wanted to impress her with how good of a skier he was but “as soon as she started skiing, it was me who was impressed. She hadn’t downhill skied for about 10 years,” he reminisced, “and she just started ripping. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, I wasn’t expecting that. This one might be a keeper.’”
Best Thing About Dating A Pro Athlete: You have someone who knows exactly what you’re going through, said Caldwell. “Since we lead the same lifestyle we get to spend a lot of time together.” Hamilton figured that time adds up to about 10 months out of the year traveling for their sport. Because of that, Caldwell said, “Sometimes we joke that we spend more time together than most married couples do. And if we still like each other by the time this is all over, we should be able to survive just about anything!”
Hardest Thing About Dating A Pro Athlete: Not being able to slack off, moaned Hamilton. “I never have any excuses for being lazy!” said the three-time Olympian. “Since she knows exactly how hard we need to work to be the best in the world, she can tell me when I need to ‘suck it up.’ I consider myself a hard worker, but I think we all have our times when we want to slack off. I can’t get away with that when I’m with her. And in the end, I’m grateful.”
The Competitive One: There is no competition; both of them agreed that Hamilton is the more competitive of the two. Thankfully he said his girlfriend embraces that side of him. “She’s very patient with me when I’m a poor loser, especially when we’re playing games like cribbage and tennis (she’s better than me at both),” he said. “When I see how much of a humble winner she is, it’s a good reminder to me that that is how you earn respect from people you want respect from. I’d like to think that being with her has taught me to handle winning and losing a bit better, because she’s much better than me at quite a few things.”
Favorite Thing To Do Together: As you would imagine, these two Olympians are pretty adventurous, so it makes sense that one of their favorite things to do together is go off in search of a new adventure. Caldwell said that means going to Hamilton’s family’s cabin in Colorado. There they go on backcountry adventures where afterwards she’s “just as content staying in, cooking dinner, doing a crossword puzzle together, and then heading to bed.”
For Hamilton, he said it doesn’t get any better than watching the love of his life “ski a huge, untracked bowl in deep powder with a huge smile on her face. I think I love to ski in the backcountry just as much as I love to cross-country ski race, so to go on those kinds of adventures with someone you love more than anyone else in the world is a pretty amazing thing.”
Valentine’s Day Traditions: They are both in agreement that “you don’t need any fancy gifts or big surprise dinners to show someone that you genuinely love them unconditionally,” Hamilton said. He considered himself lucky because the thing his significant other “values most on Valentine’s Day is just me telling her that I love her more than anything else in the world.” She admitted that she does at least “try to make him a fun card.”
Favorite Valentine’s Memory: Despite not being big on grand gestures, Hamilton admitted that one Valentine’s Day sticks out in his memory when he did something “a little unconventional for me.” The couple had a world cup race in Sweden on Feb. 14 where he “wrote with Sharpie on my race bib ‘Happy Valentine’s Day Sophie’ so that she could see it on TV when the cameraman introduced me.” Despite the fact that Caldwell said you’re not supposed to write anything on your bib, she remembered the moment as being “a very bold move that made me a little embarrassed, but it was pretty sweet.”
Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim, Figure Skating
Status: Married since June 2016
How They Met: The two were paired up on the ice in 2012 thanks to their coach, Dalilah Sappenfeld who told Alexa she had a potential skating partner that she thought would be perfect for her. “When I arrived at the airport, Chris picked me up in his Camaro and I thought, wow, he’s really cute. The rest is history!”
Who Asked Whom Out: Even though the duo was dating a month after meeting, Chris said, “I’m not sure we ever had a ‘first date’ or anything like that.” Instead, “our entire on-ice courtship and off-ice bonding gradually took on a very different meaning. At some point, I realized, that I liked her as a potential partner, not just as a partner.”
Best Thing About Dating A Pro Athlete: Because the duo not only compete in the same sport, but also compete as a pair on the ice, Chris pointed out that “neither of us has to be the ‘understanding one.’” The lifestyle that they live day in and day out is done together. “We wake up together, eat breakfast together, practice together, do physical therapy or gym work together, eat and nap together, practice again, run errands together, go to church together. Not only do we both live that lifestyle, but we live it together,” he said. “Every. Single. Day,” Alexa joked.
Hardest Thing About Dating A Pro Athlete: The same reason why dating a pro athlete is great, is also the reason why it can be so hard, Alexa offered. “There is literally no separation of church and state,” she said. “We live together, train together, travel and compete...I mean, the list goes on.”
The Competitive One: And the gold medal goes to? “Alexa! Hands down,” Chris said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m fiery, but there’s fiery and then there’s volcano.” But “joking aside, my wife is the kindest most welcoming person. You will never find a person who says they don’t like Alexa. She’s as sweet as she is strong.” And just to prove how deserving she is of the competitive title, she came back with, “Aww, sweetheart, and just like that — I love you more!”
Favorite Thing To Do Together: For a couple who don’t like any of the same things, “I like to bedazzle, play with my two cats, watch Bravo TV and E!” Alexa said. Her husband on the other hand “is a total car guy. He’s literally got an engine block suspended on a winch in our garage right now that he rebuilds every afternoon we’re done with practice,” she recounted. But despite all that, being together is what “makes us happy.”
Valentine’s Day Traditions: The newlyweds haven’t decided on many holiday traditions yet, but this is one they will probably skip. “It sounds corny,” Chris said, “but the best thing about love isn’t showing off on one day of the year, it’s showing up every day of the year.” “And again,” Alexa said, “just like that. I somehow love you even more!”
Favorite Valentine’s Memory: This will be the duo’s second Valentine’s Day as a married couple — they married in July 2016 — so Alexa said “my favorite memories are the ones we’ve still yet to make together.”
Laurenne Ross and Tommy Ford, Alpine Skiing
Status: The two-time Olympians have been dating for just over two and a half years.
How They Met: Ford remembered meeting the girl he calls a “gem” in Oregon when they were both skiing a mountain appropriately called “Bachelor.” “We were 7,” he said.
Who Asked Whom Out: While Ford remembered doing the asking, he also remembered Ross “saying yes, and then dumping me four hours later.” Ross explained, “I caved but then dumped him on our way to the chairlift, after I realized I was 11. I deeply regret that.” Ford added that thankfully, “Twenty years later we decided to try it again.”
Best Thing About Dating A Pro Athlete: There are many positives — like “understanding each other’s schedules, commitments and lifestyles,” Ross said. But Ford said his favorite thing is having someone who “also has a busy convoluted schedule but understands when you need to do your own thing.”
Hardest Thing About Dating A Pro Athlete: The travel life of a pro athlete is intense, and because of that Ford said, “seeing each other for more than five days in a row is a challenge.” Ross, too, wished they could see each other more often. “We are both constantly traveling, often in opposing directions,” she said.
The Competitive One: They both agree it’s Ross. “Watch out for her in card games,” Ford warned.
Favorite Thing To Do Together: Most of their favorite things happen in the kitchen: “Eat,” Ford said. “Dancing in the kitchen,” added Ross. “And giving raspberries, and adventuring.”
Valentine’s Day Traditions: “Not really,” Ross admitted. “Last year around Valentine’s Day we took a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, together. I’d like to make that a tradition!” Ford revealed that his favorite thing to do on Valentine’s Day is to eat chocolate.
Favorite Valentine’s Memory: It might be hard to beat Ford’s answer for his favorite Valentine’s memory as “being at the Olympics together.” But being the competitive one, Ross was willing to try. “Jumping in the ocean in Portugal in the middle of winter,” she answered.