Feb 15, 2022

The couples spending Valentine's Day at Beijing 2022

How are you spending Valentine's Day? A romantic meal, grabbing last-minute flowers from the petrol station - or perhaps just treating it like 'any other day'?

What about spending it at the Winter Olympics? That's the reality for some sporting couples, though celebrating might not be on the agenda right now.

BBC Sport takes a look at the athletes experiencing Beijing 2022 alongside their significant others.

Cornelius Kersten and Ellia Smeding

Cornelius Kersten and Ellia Smeding have made British history in Beijing as the first long track speed skaters to represent Team GB at an Olympics in 30 years.

Smeding finished 27th in the women's 1500m, while Kersten was 19th in the men's equivalent and 25th in the 500m.

The couple, who are based in the Netherlands and have been together for more than three years, set up their own coffee business to fund their way to the Games.

But how will they mark Valentine's Day? There isn't a huge amount to do in the athletes' village but..."We might go on a KFC date or something," said Smeding, while Kersten told BBC Sport: "Maybe we'll get a romantic haircut together in the mall here."

Who said romance was dead?

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Mikaela Shiffrin

Alpine skiers Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Mikaela Shiffrin started dating in 2021, but are having to spend the Olympics apart.

With the pair from different countries - Norway and the United States respectively - and such tough Covid restrictions in place, Kilde and Shiffrin have resorted to FaceTime to stay in touch and are only meeting for dinner in the athletes' village.

"It's a tease," said Kilde. "You see her but you can't really touch her, can't really be with her that much. But it's really nice to have her here."

It has been a Games of mixed fortunes for the couple. While Kilde has won alpine combined silver and super-G bronze, it's been memorable for all the wrong reasons for Shiffrin, who skied out of both the slalom and giant slalom and was ninth in the super-G, despite being a heavy favourite to clean up the medals.

Kim Meylemans and Nicole Silveira

They may be a team off the ice but Belgium's Kim Meylemans and Brazil's Nicole Silveira have gone up against each other as they both competed in the women's skeleton in Beijing, finishing 18th and 13th respectively.

Meylemans had a tough start to the Games when she tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Beijing, quarantining for three days before briefly being moved to an isolation facility.

The couple met three years ago on the World Cup tour but only went official with their relationship in December.

"I think from the beginning I wasn't 100% sure that's who I was and what I wanted. So it took me a while to finally be ok with it, I guess," Silveira told NBC's Today show.

"So for a moment there, it was me hiding a lot of who I was and hiding Kim essentially from a lot of people and the closest people that I knew of us."

Magnus Nedregotten and Kristin Skaslien

Beijing has been a Games to remember so far for Norwegian curlers Magnus Nedregotten and Kristin Skaslien, after the married couple won mixed doubles silver.

It is an upgrade on the bronze they won in Pyeongchang four years ago, awarded after the Russians who beat them in the bronze medal match were later stripped of their medals due to a doping offence.

The couple, who first got together in 2012, say they do a "hot wash" after each game in which they air their feelings and frustrations to each other.

Talking about the advantages and disadvantages of being married to your team-mate, Skaslien said: "You know each other really well, so you don't have to wrap things up, you can say exactly what you mean, and the other person won't get offended by it. It's just like getting things out and then moving forward.

"Disadvantages, well, if we start arguing, and we can't stop, we can be our worst enemies on the ice."

Zuzana Paulova and Tomas Paul

Married couples in curling aren't uncommon, and Nedregotten and Skaslien went up against another set of spouses in their mixed doubles curling opener - Tomas Paul and Zuzana Paulova of the Czech Republic.

Despite beating the Norwegians in round one, Paul and Paulova - who met at a curling tournament - eventually finished sixth.

But being partners on and off the ice means a lot of time spent together, and even more so when they had to isolate together to ensure they got to Beijing Covid-free.

"That was pretty difficult," said Paulova. "We didn't expect it was going to be such a tough situation spending 24/7 together, so we were absolutely happy when we entered the Olympic Village and we met some people."

Paul added: "You need some other social contacts than just your wife. I love her but sometimes enough is enough. Three weeks is the maximum!"

Ah, married bliss.

(BBC)

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