Love is in the air: Meet the Olympic couples competing at Paris 2024

6 minBy Jo Gunston
Katie Boulter of Great Britain and partner Alex De Minaur of Australia set to play at Paris 2024
(Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The city of love will host the majority of competitions at Olympic Games Paris 2024, with athlete couples no doubt eyeing some iconic locations at which to take some romantic selfies. Or, perhaps, even add another type of Olympic ring to their lives...

Athlete couples will be competing in myriad ways – different sports, same sport on different days, facing each other in a team event competing for different nations, or, if you're judoka Gabriella Willems and Christian Parlati, potentially on mats next to each other at exactly the same time.

"After a long qualification period together, we're excited to compete on the same day at the Olympics," Belgian Willems, a five-time IJF Grand Slam medallist, told Olympics.com. "For Christian, it's his second Olympic Games, and for me, it's my first after missing Tokyo due to injury.

"We've supported each other for seven years, and sharing this moment is a dream come true," said Willems of her Italian partner, Parlati, a two-time World medallist. "Hopefully, July 31st will be a happy day filled with tears of joy for both of us."

They are not the only couple competing at Paris 2024, in the capital city known for its romanticism, and beyond, to the likes of Nanterre, Versailles, Marseille, and even as far as Teahupoʻo, Tahiti, where surfing will take place.

Tennis stars Katie Boulter, of Team GB, and Australia's Alex De Minaur have both suffered sporting heartbreak for which a trip to Paris could prove a salve.

De Minaur contracted COVID on the eve of his Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 so could not play, while Boulter's is a more recent disappointment, going out to compatriot Harriet Dart in a close-fought tie in the second round of Wimbledon.

“These are the kind of losses that sting a little bit. They do - there's no other way to put it. I'm going to use it," said Boulter afterwards, before looking ahead to the summer in France.

“The Olympics is something that I have wanted to tick off since I was a little girl. I cannot wait for it – I'm going to soak it all in and have a fantastic time at the Olympics.”

“It’s a dream come true,” said De Minaur. “I’ve always wanted to be an Olympian. I’m super excited to be able to represent the green and gold in Paris."

The first opportunity to slay some demons for both comes at Roland Garros when the Olympic tennis starts on 27 July.

Partners understand the hard work required for Olympic journey

For Team USA fencers Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt, competing at an Olympic Games together is a regular occurrence; they are heading to their third as a couple, with a fourth for Kiefer overall, and fifth for Meinhardt.

Both have been able to take gongs back home with them to Lexington, Kentucky with Meinhardt claiming two bronze medals in the past two Olympics in the men's team foil. Kiefer, meanwhile, made Olympic history for Team USA at Tokyo 2020, claiming a first-ever individual foil gold.

The person most pleased for her? Her husband.

"My wife just made my #Olympics dream complete," Meinhardt wrote on social media. "Words can't describe how bad she wanted this, how hard she worked, or how proud of her I am," he added.

"So proud!!" Kiefer wrote on Instagram alongside some celebratory shots with Meinhardt's medal. "My man fenced beautifully."

The pair are also following another dream together – becoming doctors. On returning home from Japan, it was back to the books, and they will restart their third year of medical school after their trip to Paris.

Date night in Marseille for one Olympic couple?

Another doctor, Austrian sailor Lara Vadlau, and her German footballer partner Lea Schüller might be able to arrange date nights around the match days of 25 and 28 July in Marseille, as Germany will play their first two group games in the city that is hosting the sailing regatta.

Olympic debutant Schüller will begin her campaign before the official start of the XXXIII Olympiad, with football one of four sports that begin before the opening ceremony on 26 July.

Germany, the Rio 2016 Olympic champions take on Australia, fourth-placed finishers at their home World Cup in 2023, in their first game in Group B, on 25 July at Marseille Stadium. The second match in the city will be a humdinger, against four-time Olympic champions, Team USA.

Vadlau can give her partner some tips on how to manage the excitement and pressure having taken part in two Olympics already herself in the women’s one person dinghy (ILCA 7). As a 17-year-old, she also won gold in the sailing at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games Singapore 2010.

In a joint interview on the Bayern Munich website, for whom Schüller plays, the pair were asked about what it's like being in a relationship when both are elite athletes.

“I find it really helpful because both of us understand what you have to do for your sport, that you’re away a lot and don’t see each other that often," said Vadlau.

Schüller added: “We often only see each other for three to five days at a time. It’s a bit like a long-distance relationship. Not because we live in different places - we live together in Munich - it’s just one of us is always away.”

So, the stars aligning so that the pair will both be in the same city at the Olympic Games in France makes for an extra special occasion.

Noah Lyles, Maggie Steffens, Charlotte Caslick and more competing in the city of love

Many more couples will be heading to France together for Paris 2024.

For Italy, fencing athlete Rossella Fiamingo, an Olympic silver and bronze medallist, says of watching her swimmer boyfriend Gregorio Paltrinieri, who has the full set of Olympic medals, "I am excited as if I am the one competing".

Tennis players Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, and home crowd favourite Gael Monfils, have a new fan supporting their endeavours at Stade Roland Garros, which is hosting both tennis and boxing at Paris 2024, with 21-month-old daughter Skai now part of their squad.

Jamaica's Junelle Bromfield, a 4x400m relay World and Olympic medallist, will take to the athletics track at the iconic Stade de France knowing that her boyfriend is likely to go stratospheric come Games time.

Noah Lyles of Team USA is favourite to replicate his world gold in the men's 100m, 200m and 4x100m, with his characterful displays no doubt about to make him one of the faces of the Games.

Brazilian surfers João Chianca and Luana Silva, will take to the waves in Teahupo'o in Tahiti, while Slovak race walkers Dominik Černý and Hana Burzalova are set to head down the aisle, at a presumably more leisurely pace, when the Olympic Games is over, and the city of love imbibes its magic for couples all.

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