The Trials of Being a Married Olympian

Two things that might not go together like peas and carrots: Marriage and the Olympics.

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Two things that might not go together like peas and carrots: Marriage and the Olympics. You know how everyone's always yammering on about how life in the Olympic Village is a non-stop hookup fest, a wild and crazy fit-person orgy, at least in the times when those fit people are not actually competing?

As ESPN The Magazine's Sam Allpour wrote in mid-July, the dating and mating, singles-mix-and-mingle part of the Olympics is a key element of the overall event, and it's certainly one that everybody talks about:

"The games begin as soon as teams move in a week or so before opening ceremonies. "It's like the first day of college," says water polo captain Tony Azevedo, a veteran of Beijing, Athens and Sydney who is returning to London. "You're nervous, super excited. Everyone's meeting people and trying to hook up with someone."

So much so that there is a "new standing order" of 100,000 condoms available to the 12,000 athletes. That's up from 70,000 ordered at the 2000 Games in Sydney, a number then boosted to 20,000, and now to the 100,000. (Others say that actually these condoms are the International Olympic Committee’s way to show their commitment to promoting AIDS awareness and prevention, and not about promoting hanky-panky in the Village, but that's obviously the less "sexy" take.)

Back to that. Allpour continues:

It quickly becomes clear that, summer or winter, the games go on long after the medal ceremony. "There's a lot of sex going on," says women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, a gold medalist in 2008. How much sex? "I'd say it's 70 percent to 75 percent of Olympians," offers world-record-holding swimmer Ryan Lochte, who will be in London for his third Games. "Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."

But what if you're not doing any of that? What if you're married? The Wall Street Journal's Stu Woo and Gillian Tan offer up a countering story of love and commitment and what happens when Olympians get hitched. (There are at least six pairs of married athletes in London right now.) Apparently, it is not all fun and games!

Woo and Tan explain that among the trials marrieds face at the Olympics (and a lot of folks who return with their spouses to the Olympics actually met at an earlier Games), there are problems of sleeping in the same room, particularly when you represent different countries or have gender-segregated dorms; having to push together single beds (always a pain!); missing out on each other's events due to scheduling conflicts; and, of course, trying to get a babysitter when you have kids. "Every four years, wedded bliss becomes a domestic trial for Olympians married to one another," write Woo and Tan. Plus, you're supposed to put your event before your spouse, which may not always end well when you admit that on the pages of a national newspaper. Per The Journal:

"For the week of the Olympics, it's more important for me to have a good relationship with your horse than your wife," [Australian equestrian Clayton Fredericks] said. "That's the one that's going to win you the medals."

And then there's having to take a pregnancy test in the Olympic Village, like Katy Emmons, a Czech Olympic rifle shooter who met Matt Emmons, also a rifle shooter, at Athens in 2004. They started dating, got married in 2007, and both qualified for Beijing. Upon arrival at the Olympic Village, "Katy, who had arrived earlier, told him, 'I think we need to do a pregnancy test.' It was positive." Now they're parents, their daughter, Julie, was sent to her grandmother's while they competed in London.

ESPN's Allpour quotes Julie Foudy, a medalist for soccer and now an ESPN analyst, as saying that she'd stare at all the "eye candy" in the dining hall, wondering why she ever got married. But at the same time, single Olympians need companionship, too: "Many on-the-prowl athletes maintain that they're driven by a simple human need: intimacy, if only for a moment or three," Allpour writes. "For most Olympians, the ramp-up to the Games is lonely. Not unlike movie stars on a far-flung movie shoot, the Olympics present the perfect opportunity to find a partner who understands where they're coming from."

So despite having to push two single beds together and inevitably falling between the space in the middle, perhaps the benefit of being married at the Olympics is that you have a built-in shoulder to cry on, and go home with, when you only get fourth. And that love thing, too. Plus, all that carousing in the Olympic Village sounds exhausting!

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.