Love Is In the Air at London Aquatics Center

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Feature by Jeff Commings

PHOENIX, Arizona, August 4. LOVE was in the air for eight days at the London Aquatic Center, as several swimmers known for their romantic involvements as much as their swimming accomplishments made waves.

Rebecca Soni and Ricky Berens will probably be regarded as swimming's supercouple after their performances in London. Soni set two world records in the 200 breaststroke on the way to gold and won another one today as part of the medley relay. Berens pulled relay duty for the United States, winning silver in the 400 free relay and gold in the 800 free relay. Including their medal hauls in 2008, they have nine Olympic medals between them.

Dana Vollmer, the Olympic champion in the 100 butterfly, will bring her three golds home to husband Andy Grant. The two married in August 2011, just after Vollmer cleaned up at the world championships. Their courtship took on a Romeo and Juliet quality, as Vollmer attended Cal-Berkeley and Grant swam for archrival Stanford.

Now that they have collected gold, a couple of American Olympic medalists will be turning their focuses on marrying other swimmers. Matt Grevers, the champion in the 100 back and a double medalist on the sprint relays, is set to wed swimmer Annie Chandler next year. Chandler missed making the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 breast, but was in attendance in London to cheer for her fianc?. The two were part of an extremely viral video in which he proposed to Chandler at the Missouri Grand Prix in February, presenting her with a ring on the awards stand.

Jessica Hardy won bronze in the 400 free relay and was on the prelim squad of the 400 medley relay, meaning she'll collect a gold medal for her efforts there. Her fianc?, Switzerland's Dominik Meichtry, also swam in London, finishing in 15th place. Meichtry surprised Hardy with a proposal on a beach in Malibu, Calif., right at sunset. The two met while swimmers at the University of California-Berkeley and now train at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

“It's great having that significant other here,” Meichtry said. “It is something really special to have her compete. We see each other here and there but don't see each other too often because we're in different teams. It's great to have that support system here.”

Keri-Anne Payne, the favorite for gold in this week's 10-kilometer marathon swim, is set to marry swimmer David Carry on Sept. 15. Media reports indicate they've been dating since 2005. Rebecca Adlington will be one of Payne's bridesmaids.

Germany's Paul Biedermann and Britta Steffen didn't perform up to expectations in London, after setting two world records each at the 2009 world championships. Interestingly, Steffen's world records still stand in the 50 and 100 freestyles, while Biedermann owns the world mark in the 200 and 400 freestyles. In their home country, they are usually the subject of much tabloid discussion, as their whereabouts are frequently documented.

Federica Pellegrini was involved in one of the most heated romantic battles in history. In 2007, Luca Marin broke off his engagement to Laure Manaudou and proposed to Pellegrini shortly thereafter. But Pellegrini and Marin ended their engagement last year at the world championships, and Pellegrini was publicly shown romantically involved with teammate Filippo Magnini, who she officially started dating in October 2001. Neither Pellegrini nor Magnini (or Marin, for that matter) are leaving London with Olympic medals, but have amassed a hefty resume of accomplishments in the pool.

A few other swimming couples of note from London include Brits Caitlin McClatchey and Liam Tancock; Australians Meagan Nay and Mitch Larkin; and British backstroker Stephanie Proud and French freestyler Sebastien Rousseau.

Ryan Lochte had to wave off rumors of a romantic relationship with Aussie Blair Evans a couple of days before the Olympics began when the two were spotted catching up during a workout at the pool. Lochte retaliated by saying: “It may have come off like that's my romance for the Olympics but it's not like that. It's a great friend that I'm just excited to see.”
Lochte has been quoted in the media as saying he does not have a girlfriend, adding that he was dating someone during the Beijing Olympics, and it was “not a good idea.”

Send feature story ideas to Jeff Commings at jeffc@swimmingworldmagazine.com.

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