Golden medals and golden rings

Jack Lacey-Hatton, Sydney Isaacs, Toby Bryant and Sophie Chapman all take a closer look at four sporting couples we've come to know and love

Jack Lacey-Hatton
13th February 2017
Partners in crime: Chris and Gabby Adcock out on court. Image: Wikimedia Commons

With Valentine’s Day taking over this week, our writers take a look at some of the most successful sporting couples.

Chris and Gabby Adcock

When it comes to sporting couples, few have had a longer relationship (as a mixed doubles team at least) than badminton husband and wife team, Chris and Gabby Adcock. The two have played together on and off since they were 11 years old after meeting through the sport, and have been in a relationship since they were teenagers, marrying in 2013.

Both have gone from strength-to-strength in recent years. The highlight came the same year they were married, when the Adcock’s won the Hong Kong super series, beating the reigning Olympic and world champions, Chinese pair Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan, along the way.

The couple had hoped to partner up at the home games of London 2012, but were split up in controversial circumstances by Badminton England. Both were placed with more experienced partners in a bid to improve medal chances. Both failed to make an impact: Gabby and partner Rob Blair failed to qualify.

Being reunited at the Glasgow Commonwealth games in 2014, gave the pair another career highlight. They won a major gold medal for the first time, after a comfortable 2-0 win over another British pair- Chris Langridge and Heather Oliver. This gave the pair high hopes for the Rio 2016 Olympics last summer. Unfortunately the Adcock’s, with a competitive field in Brazil, failed to reach the knockout stage of the tournament.

Both have joked in interviews that relationship and on-court issues colliding means that their sports psychologist Simon Drane has, at times, become more of a marriage councillor! Despite a fairly disappointing 2016, the Adcock’s will have high hopes of doing well in this summer’s forthcoming Badminton BWF world championships, held in Glasgow at the emirates Arena. They will hope to still be the number 1 GB mixed doubles couple in Tokyo at the 2020 Olympics.

Jack Lacey-Hatton

Brianne Theisan-Eaton and Ashton Eaton

They met as students at the University of Oregon, married in 2013, and following an incredible 2016, have announced their retirement from athletics. Canadian Breanne Theisen-Eaton and USA’s Ashton Eaton, both 28 years old have decided to call it a day in the athletics field after performing at the top of their game, and both achieving their lifetime ambitions of medalling in the Rio 2016 Olympic games last Summer. Eaton collected his second Olympic gold medal in the Men’s Decathlon, whilst Theisen Eaton became world Indoor heptathlon champion and took home an Olympic bronze medal for the heptathlon, which was won by Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill.

The multi-eventing power couple have developed their own brand ‘Weareeaton’ and a website on which they describe their personal roller-coaster journeys in athletics and inspire sportspeople of all generations to keep going at what they do. On their website the couple claim to have even more in common than their incredible passion for sport and a huge pile of medals:

“We are Ashton and Brianne. We are a married couple from two different countries. We are total tech and reality TV junkies. We are small-town grower-uppers, adventure seekers and nutritious eaters. We are world travellers and competition dabblers. We are hard-workers and play-harders; dreamers, achievers, avid readers and coffee-needers. We are athletes. We are people. This is who we are.

In their own rights, Ashton and Brianne are record breakers. Ashton smashed an 11 year old decathlon world record before a home crowd in Eugene, Oregon at Olympic trials in 2012. The record of 9039 points was made even more remarkable by the fact that his coach deemed the weather conditions at the time ‘cold’, ‘wet’ and ‘unfavourable’. Thiesen-Eaton is the only Canadian to ever have appeared on the Olympic podium for heptathlon.

The Eaton’s summarise their mind-set with a quote from Winston Churchill: “if you’re going through hell, Keep going”

Sydney Isaacs

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

At the Olympic Games last summer, Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh became the first married couple to both claim an Olympic gold since Cyril and Dorothy Wright triumphed in the sailing of 1920. Furthermore, they hold the record as the first same-sex couple to win Olympic gold in the same final.

Away from the field, Helen and Kate’s relationship is rumoured to have started during the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing, where they both claimed bronze. However, the two have been friends since growing up and rose to the height of the hockey world together. London 2012 saw the couple win another bronze despite Kate suffering a terrible injury and breaking her jaw. After a number of years dating the couple tied the knot in 2013. Kate was, in fact, engaged to former Team GB men’s hockey captain Brett Gerrard but called off the marriage just before the summer of 2008, when she first started seeing Helen.

Unfortunately, in 2014 the couple’s sporting careers took a setback as Helen struggled to prove she was fit enough to be selected for the Hockey World Cup in 2014 after rupturing a disk in her back. However, two years later she was back in, and very much a pinnacle member, of Team GB’s triumphant female hockey side.

Although the two may be very much loved up, Kate has insisted that their relationship on the pitch is truly professional: “We put our hockey heads on when we’re at hockey and then when we get away we’re Helen and Kate, the couple.”

They have also recognised how important the welcoming nature of the sport has been for them, with Kate saying, “I feel quite proud to have been brought up around hockey, where there have been lots of different ethnicities, religions, sexualities and so on. It’s normal and I feel proud of that.”

Toby Bryant

Laura and Jason Kenny

The Golden Couple of the Olympics, Laura and Jason Kenny, married in a secret ceremony five weeks after achieving historical success in Rio. Not only did they win gold, but they won the nations hearts.

Jason, with six golds in total, is the joint holder of the highest number of Olympic gold medals for a British athlete, tied only with Chris Hoy. Laura is GB’s most successful female Olympian in any sport with her four golds.

Laura was part of the wave of fresh inspiration to emerge from the 2012 games in London where she won her first two golds, in Omnium and Team Pursuit. At this point Jason had already won a gold in Beijing in 2008.  Then London 2012 the pairs romance was revealed as they were spotted getting cosy at the beach volleyball.

Their engagement was announced in 2014 meaning by 2016 the public could watch with baited breath as the pair enjoyed each other’s success. Of huge suspense was Jason’s plight for his third gold of the Olympics. Laura could be seen on the verge of hysteria as the race was restarted twice and disqualifications were issued – one incident in particular saw Jason come close to being out of the race.

The interviews following the pairs successes highlighted the differences between the two. Laura was bubbly, energetic and full of excitement,whilst Jason was calm and reserved yet clearly proud. In fact, Laura has said on many occasions that this  had initially put her off him. Clearly, this has been overcome.

The two now live in Cheshire with their two dogs, Pringle and Sprolo, who even went on honeymoon with them. Post-Olympics they have published a book and are both hoping to compete in Tokyo 2020, taking them further up the charts of history.

Sophie Chapman

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