Passions are high at the Olympics and the romances that spark there are often fleeting but what happens once the media goes home and medals are packed away? A few romances have stood the test of time and weathered the flurry of attention that strikes for a few weeks every four years and then vanishes.
Olympic contenders Matt Emmons and Katy Kurkova first met at the Athens Olympics in 2004 while at a beer garden. Both were romantically involved with others but Katy wanted to offer him her support after he gave a disappointing performance at the 50-meter rifle position finals. Emmons inadvertently fired at the wrong target which cost him a chance for the gold and left him in 8th place. Katy told him how sorry she was and that to her, he was the champion.
Though the pair felt a romantic spark at the time, neither acted on it. Katy admitted she fell in love and that something clicked between them. A year later, Matt’s coach decided to add a training camp for female shooters to the U.S. Olympic Training Center. Located in Colorado Springs, the move was designed to give the flagging women’s program a boost.
Following the 2004 Olympics, Katy, a U.S. citizen who competed for the Czech Republic, contemplated retirement. She was overwhelmed by the media attention she received by being a medalist for such a small country. She was only 20 at the time and felt it was too much to handle. Katy reluctantly decided to give it another go and went to the training camp.
After watching Katy practice, Matt was able to help restore her confidence. He assured her she hadn’t lost any of her skill or natural ability. In turn, Katy was inspired by watching Matt train for the three-position rifle which he ultimately won the bronze medal for at this year’s Olympics in London. She admired his passion and that admiration and passion sparked a romance. Eight years after their first encounter, the couple is married and the proud parents of 2 year old Julia.
Rifle shooters Jamie Gray and Army Marksmanship Unit shooter Staff Sgt. Hank Gray married in September of 2011 but had met long before at the Colorado Springs Training Center. Their first meeting happened in 2002 at camp but didn’t really click until the 2004 ISSF World Cup in Sydney.
Jamie said it helped having someone who understood the rigors of the sport and the training program, someone who knew the lifestyle needed to make a successful run for the gold. Jamie took home the gold medal this year in the women’s 50-meter rifle three-position.
And cross sport romances happen, too. Triathlete Hunter Kemper met his future wife, Valerie, a member of the U.S. volleyball team, while the two trained for their respective sports for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. When Valerie was named an alternate and therefore not eligible to travel to Sydney with the team, Hunter sprang into action. He chose that day to ask her out and they went on their first date together. He was attentive and supportive, just what she needed in the moment. The couple married and now has three sons.