It takes a special type of person to love a swimmer. You have to be an early riser, accept that mildew has become a part of your life, be unusually attracted to dry, brittle hair (often in an “up-do” fashion for the ladies), and have an unnatural affinity for chlorine. You also have to accept that for about 6-8 weeks, during a swimmer’s peak training season, your significant other is probably going to be cranky most of the time.
Perhaps this is why swimmers so often seem to date their own kind. It works out well: swimmers understand each other, and unlike most elite athletes, they can train, travel, and compete together, which allows them to eke out a few extra moments of quality time (to-and-from practice, for example) that would otherwise be undoable in the busy life of an elite athlete (can you imagine if Candace Parker and Kobe Bryant tried dating?). Swimmers also get to train wherever they want to, without fear of being traded or released, so that comfort factor of a long-term potential relationship must help.
National Teamer Chloe Sutton remarked in a recent blog she wrote for Universal Sports that she’s single. Something about sunscreen, eau-de-chlorine and wet hair. I’m not saying what I’m not saying, but I have a feeling that if she tried to date within the species (homo aquaticus), she would have no trouble finding someone who could overlook those concerns.
Whatever the reasons, the current generation of Olympic swimmers is pairing up like crazy, and perhaps (no pressure) preparing to create a new breed of super-swimmers that will dominate the aquatics scene. Let’s take a look at some big-name swimming couples. Hopefully, at least a few of these couples will produce 2040 Olympic Champions:
1. Michael Klueh and Emily Brunneman (“KluehNeman”) – This is a match made in heaven. Klueh, a former Texas star, and Brunneman, a former Michigan star, are both members of USA Swimming’s National team as distance freestylers. Brunneman has been training in California with the FAST team since her graduation, and Klueh recently made the move to join her. According to Emily, they first met at the 2008 Olympic Trials, and they hit it off immediately and have been dating since shortly thereafter.
2. Fred Bousquet and Laure Manaudou (“FredUdou”)- The next generation is on the horizon for this French couple, as their daughter Manon just turned 1 in April. The couple lives and trains together in Auburn, Alabama, and between them have 11 World Championship medals. This is the only couple on the list where both swimmers have held individual World Records. Manaudou has been in some high-profile relationships in the past, but I think Alabama is a good place for them to raise their child, as it allows them to fly under the radar and avoid the spotlight a little bit.
3. Ricky Berens and Rebecca Soni (“RickBecca”)- Like Klueh, Berens recently headed from Texas to the Sunshine State to join his significant other, only he was headed to Trojan Aquatics in Los Angeles. Soni is the best thing going in the women’s breaststroke (swimming?), and Berens is working his way to prominence in the international swimming world after a 2008 Olympic berth and a wildly successful NCAA career. It’s not clear how long the two have been together, but the relationship was first revealed in a Gold Medal Mel interview from July, 2010, where Mel caught Soni getting a phone-call from Ricky while recording a video interview.
4. Matt Grevers and Annie Chandler (“AnnVers”)- This is an awesome collegiate-couple, as both swimmers are former or current NCAA Record holders. Chandler qualified for the US National Team last summer, but since she’s only one year out of college, Grevers carries most of the international hardware (including an individual 100 back silver from Beijing). They compete in totally opposite events: Chandler is all breaststroke, and Grevers has only swum two breaststroke races this millenium (per the SWIMS database). Chandler has revealed some great insights into how she and Matt keep their relationship strong through all of their training, that’s definitely an interesting read, and she’s said several times that Grevers has a knack for keeping her motivated in times of frustration amongst all of the Olympic swimmers in Tucson. One reason this couple works so well together is that Annie has the height to hang with the 6’8 Grevers. If they end up getting married, their future children are destined for greatness in the pool…or maybe on the basketball court.
5. Peter Mankoc and Triin Aljand (“ManJand”)- These two names don’t evoke a ton of Olympic memories, mostly because of their specialties, but they’re still two great swimmers who have been together for years. Aljand, of Estonia, is a former star at Texas A&M who once set the NCAA record in the 50 free (that was never ratified). Last year, she won bronze at the European short course Championships in the 50 fly, and has a ton of power in the sprints. Mankoc, from Slovenia, has only a single, major long course medal to his name (bronze from Euro’s in the 100 fly in 2008), but his short course resume is as deep as anybody’s: he won 9 consecutive European short course gold medals in the 100 IM, a feat that’s never been matched by any swimmer in any event. This Eastern European “it” couple lights up the tabloids, and they’ve been together for years. In terms of pure speed and fast-twitch, there’s not a pair that ranks better than this one.
6. Dominik Meichtry and Jessica Hardy (“DominiCa”) – Hardy and Swiss boyfriend Meichtry met while they were both students at Cal, and after at least 4 years together, have now taken their romance south to USC. In the water, these two don’t match (Hardy is all sprint, in the freestyles and breaststrokes, whereas Meichtry is a top-10 middle distance freestyler), but outside of the pool they’ve made things work. It’s been a rough couple of years for Hardy, and Meichtry has publicly been very supportive of her throughout. If they end up having kids together, there will definitely be a battle between the two federations over who gets to employ their services!
7. Ethan Hall and Natalie Coughlin (“EthaLie”) – This is the only couple on the list who has taken the plunge and walked to the alter. Coughlin and Hall, who is a coach for the Crow Canyon Sharks, were married in April of 2009 during her 18-month swimming hiatus. Hall was a decent swimmer in his own right (he’s a former 15-16 NAG record holder in the 200 breaststroke), but his biggest stamp on swimming will be from the sprinters he’s producing out at Crow Canyon that includes Sr. National Teamer Madison White, and Jr. NT swimmer Taylor Nanfria, among others.
There are surely more high-profile swimming couples out there than this. Name who we missed? (Serious couples need only apply).