10 all-time great athletic couples, and how they made each other better athletes

Jim Caple
Golf Digest

After missing much of the past couple years with back injuries, Tiger Woods is back playing and receiving his usual massive media coverage. His former partner of nearly three years, Lindsey Vonn, also received good attention when she competed in her fourth Olympics this month and at 33, became the oldest woman to medal in alpine skiing.

They were two of the greatest athletes to ever be a couple – until they broke up in 2015.

Fortunately, there are other great athletic couples. Here are some notable ones, albeit many of them are retired from their sports. As several of them have said, however, being a couple can make you even better in your sport.

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Basketball star Sue Bird and soccer star Megan Rapinoe

<h1 class="title">8th Annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit</h1> <div class="caption"> NEWPORT BEACH, CA - OCTOBER 4: Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe attend the 8th Annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit at Resort at Pelican Hill on October 4, 2017 in Newport Beach, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) </div> <cite class="credit">Joe Scarnici</cite>

8th Annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit

NEWPORT BEACH, CA - OCTOBER 4: Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe attend the 8th Annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit at Resort at Pelican Hill on October 4, 2017 in Newport Beach, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
Joe Scarnici

The WNBA all-time leader in assists and 10-time All-Star, Bird won two NCAA championship at UConn, has two WNBA titles with the Seattle Storm and four Olympic gold medals. Seattle Reign star Rapinoe won an NCAA title at the University of Portland, has competed in two World Cups and two Olympics – winning titles in each. The two began dating in late 2016 and each says the other has helped with their careers.

“I think we both really admire the kind of player that each other is,’’ Rapinoe told me. “And no one wants to fall behind and be second fiddle. I think we’ll keep pushing that in terms of our athletic careers.’’

Decathlon star Ashton Eaton and heptathlon and pentathlon athlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton

<h1 class="title">Life is Good at GOLD MEETS GOLDEN Event in Los Angeles</h1> <div class="caption"> LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 07: Olympic athlete Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton attend Life is Good at GOLD MEETS GOLDEN Event at Equinox on January 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Life is Good) </div> <cite class="credit">Rich Polk</cite>

Life is Good at GOLD MEETS GOLDEN Event in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 07: Olympic athlete Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton attend Life is Good at GOLD MEETS GOLDEN Event at Equinox on January 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Life is Good)
Rich Polk

Eaton is the world record holder and two-time gold medalist (2012 and 2016) in the decathlon while Breanna earned the bronze medal in the heptathlon for Canada at the 2016 Olympics. Both retired last year but have said getting married in 2013 helped them.

“I think it does make the pursuit easier because we understand what it takes in our marriage -- the success of our athletic dreams comes before everything.’’ Eaton said at the 2016 U.S. track and field Olympic trials. “It’s kind of tough sometimes, especially when you’re married. ‘Hey, do you want to go watch a movie?’ ‘No, I have a hard workout tomorrow.’”

In addition to working with charities and in tech and science, Ashton told me he actually would like to go to Mars. Seriously! Although, he added, “Breanna is not that thrilled about it.’’

Tennis greats Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi

<h1 class="title">Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in Roland-Garros for the Andre Agassi Foundation in Paris, France on June 06th, 2009.</h1> <div class="caption"> FRANCE - JUNE 06: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in Roland-Garros for the Andre Agassi Foundation in Paris, France on June 06th, 2009 - Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi playing in Roland-Garros Tennis Tournament. (Photo by Laurent ZABULON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) </div> <cite class="credit">Laurent ZABULON</cite>

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in Roland-Garros for the Andre Agassi Foundation in Paris, France on June 06th, 2009.

FRANCE - JUNE 06: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf in Roland-Garros for the Andre Agassi Foundation in Paris, France on June 06th, 2009 - Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi playing in Roland-Garros Tennis Tournament. (Photo by Laurent ZABULON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Laurent ZABULON

Both were ranked No. 1 in the world, with Graf winning 22 Grand Slams, Agassi winning eight Grand Slams and each winning Olympic gold medals. The two married in 2001 and have two children. They also have made a number of commercials together, for Longines, T-Mobile and Genworth Financial.

Talk about mixed doubles champions!

Soccer icon Mia Hamm and All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra

<h1 class="title"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/lad/" data-ylk="slk:Los Angeles Dodgers">Los Angeles Dodgers</a> Host Hollywood Stars Night - June 24, 2006</h1> <div class="caption"> Los Angeles Dodgers Nomar Garciaparra with wife Mia Hamm during Hollywood Stars Night prior to the Los Angeles Dodgers vs the Pittsburgh Pirates game Saturday, June 24, 2006 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Soohoo/WireImage) </div> <cite class="credit">Jon Soohoo</cite>

Los Angeles Dodgers Host Hollywood Stars Night - June 24, 2006

Los Angeles Dodgers Nomar Garciaparra with wife Mia Hamm during Hollywood Stars Night prior to the Los Angeles Dodgers vs the Pittsburgh Pirates game Saturday, June 24, 2006 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Soohoo/WireImage)
Jon Soohoo

Hamm may be the most famous women’s soccer player in history – and perhaps the most famous American soccer player -- with two World Cup championships, two Olympic gold medals and several athlete of the year awards. Garciaparra was a six-time All-Star shortstop and won two batting titles. The two married in 2003 and have two twin daughters and a son. They also are investors in the FC Los Angeles soccer team.

Considering how good Hamm was, perhaps their children will play for FC Los Angeles, including the girls. Or like Nomar, for a baseball team.

Famed gymnasts Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner

<h1 class="title">NBCUniversal's 74th Annual Golden Globes After Party - Arrivals</h1> <div class="caption"> BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: Olympic Gymnasts Bart Connor and Nadia Comaneci arrives at the NBCUniversal's 74th Annual Golden Globes After Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images) </div> <cite class="credit">Greg Doherty</cite>

NBCUniversal's 74th Annual Golden Globes After Party - Arrivals

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: Olympic Gymnasts Bart Connor and Nadia Comaneci arrives at the NBCUniversal's 74th Annual Golden Globes After Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images)
Greg Doherty

A five-time gold medalist for Romania, Comaneci was the first gymnast to score a perfect 10.0 at the 1976 Olympics while Bart Conner won two golds with the U.S. in 1984. The two married in Bucharest in 1996, with a reception at Romania’s former presidential palace. Their story continues to be impressive. They run the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy and are heavily involved in the Special Olympics. Nadia was even on “The Celebrity Apprentice’’ (she got fired.)

And Comaneci had the couple’s son, Dylan, in 2006 when she was 44 years old. The baby was delivered through a Caesarean and Comaneci told a Daily Mail reporter the doctors gave her a “perfect 10 for the birth.’’

Misty May-Treanor and Matt Treanor -- and Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Casey Jennings

<h1 class="title">Misty May and Matt Treanor - Portait Session</h1> <div class="caption"> Olympic Beach Volleyball Player Misty May poses for portraits with her husband Matt Treanor, catcher for the Florida Marlins. The two posed together in April of 2005. (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/WireImage) </div> <cite class="credit">Jennifer Pottheiser</cite>

Misty May and Matt Treanor - Portait Session

Olympic Beach Volleyball Player Misty May poses for portraits with her husband Matt Treanor, catcher for the Florida Marlins. The two posed together in April of 2005. (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/WireImage)
Jennifer Pottheiser

Considered the greatest beach volleyball duo – they won three FIVA beach volleyball world championships and three Olympic golds while still playing – the two both married fellow athletes. Walsh-Jennings is married to beach volleyballer Casey Jennings. They have three children, one of whom was a bun in the oven while Kerri won gold at the 2012 Olympics!

Misty married former major league catcher Matt Treanor. Being together wasn’t easy since their schedules kept them apart. But they inspired each other to keep going even when retirement was a possibility before it was necessary. Matt told me that after a bad hip injury he considered retirement but Misty said, “If you don’t (keep playing), you might regret this.’’

Track champion Sanya Richards-Ross and cornerback Aaron Ross

<h1 class="title">US' Sanya Richards-Ross (C) poses with h</h1> <div class="caption"> US' Sanya Richards-Ross (C) poses with her husband American football player Aaron Ross (L) after winning the women's 400m final at the athletics event during the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 5, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/GettyImages) </div> <cite class="credit">FRANCK FIFE</cite>

US' Sanya Richards-Ross (C) poses with h

US' Sanya Richards-Ross (C) poses with her husband American football player Aaron Ross (L) after winning the women's 400m final at the athletics event during the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 5, 2012 in London. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/GettyImages)
FRANCK FIFE

Aaron earned the Jim Thorpe award for defensive player of the year as a cornerback at the University of Texas, then won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. Richards-Ross is a four-time Olympic gold medalist in track – the 400 and 4x400 -- and a five-time gold medalist world track and field championships. The two started dating at UT and married in 2010. They have a son, born last year and who no doubt will be fast with great endurance.

Skater Kristi Yamaguchi and hockey player Brett Hedican

<h1 class="title">World Premiere of Disney-Pixar's Wall-E - Arrivals</h1> <div class="caption"> LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21: NHL player Bret Hedican and former Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi arrive at the world premiere of Disney-Pixar's film Wall-E held at the Greek Theater on June 21, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images) </div> <cite class="credit">Alberto E. Rodriguez</cite>

World Premiere of Disney-Pixar's Wall-E - Arrivals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21: NHL player Bret Hedican and former Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi arrive at the world premiere of Disney-Pixar's film Wall-E held at the Greek Theater on June 21, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Alberto E. Rodriguez

The two met briefly at the 1992 Winter Olympics, where Yamaguchi won the gold medal in figure skating and Hedican played with the U.S. hockey team, then went on to 20 seasons in the NHL The two married in 2000 and have two daughters. In addition to her Olympic gold and two world championships, Yamaguchi also won “Dancing with the Stars’’ in 2008.

What will the Yamaguchi win next? Given their careers, maybe “The Amazing Race’’ with Hedican.

Hockey stars Ray Ferraro and Cammi Granato

<h1 class="title">HHOF Legends Classic Hockey Game</h1> <div class="caption"> TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07: Former player Ray Ferraro and husband of Cammi Granato gives her a kiss following the Hockey Hall of Fame blazer ceremony prior to the Legends Classic Hockey Game at the Air Canada Centre on November 7, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) </div> <cite class="credit">Bruce Bennett</cite>

HHOF Legends Classic Hockey Game

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07: Former player Ray Ferraro and husband of Cammi Granato gives her a kiss following the Hockey Hall of Fame blazer ceremony prior to the Legends Classic Hockey Game at the Air Canada Centre on November 7, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett

Ferraro played 18 years in the NHL, scoring 408 goals and winning a Stanley Cup. Granato was captain of the U.S. women’s hockey team that won the 1998 gold medal and was the first woman inducted into a hockey Hall of Fame. She also played in every world championship from 1900 to 2005. She was so good that her brother and fellow hockey star, Tony, once told Sports Illustrated: “She has surpassed me. She’s not my sister. I’m her brother.’’

Granato and Ferraro have been married 13 years and have two sons. They live in Vancouver so maybe the boys will go on to finally win the Canucks a Stanley Cup.

Soccer stars Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco

<h1 class="title">Alex Morgan &amp; Servando Carrasco Wedding</h1> <div class="caption"> SANTA BARBARA, CA - DECEMBER 31: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) US Soccer stars Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco celebrate at their wedding reception at Rancho Dos Pueblos on December 31, 2014 in Santa Barbara, California. Morgan's reception dress "Little White Dress," pictured, was custom designed with her input by Amsale. (Photo by Kamee June Photography/Handout/Getty Images) </div> <cite class="credit">Handout</cite>

Alex Morgan & Servando Carrasco Wedding

SANTA BARBARA, CA - DECEMBER 31: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) US Soccer stars Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco celebrate at their wedding reception at Rancho Dos Pueblos on December 31, 2014 in Santa Barbara, California. Morgan's reception dress "Little White Dress," pictured, was custom designed with her input by Amsale. (Photo by Kamee June Photography/Handout/Getty Images)
Handout

A striker with the Orlando Pride, Morgan has played in two World Cups (winning one) and two Olympics (gold in 2012) and was named the U.S. soccer female player of the year in 2012 and a FIFA world player of the year finalist. (She also has appeared twice in Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues.) Morgan and Carrasco, a midfielder with the LA Galaxy, met in college at Cal-Berkeley.

In 2012, Carrasco told the Seattle Times: “Throughout college we could always share the experiences, the ups and downs that are sports. There’s an impermanence in sports. One day you’re winning and you’re on top of the world, scoring three goals, and the next day you’re losing two-zero. Having someone to share that experience — like when you’re down, either her or me is able to stay positive. That’s the reason why we continue to grow as a couple.”

And why more jocks should find a spouse who also is an athlete.

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