SOCHI, Russia – They say you should never work with an ex, and that if you do, it probably won't end well. But Winter Olympic ice dancers Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy believe their previous romantic relationship has actually helped their partnership on the ice.
Cappellini and Lanotte dated as teenagers and buck the trend of many pairs and ice dance skaters who tend to get together once they team up. For them, it was the opposite.
"We dated for two years when we were not skating together and when we got serious about skating we didn't date anymore," said Cappellini, whose popularity in Italy has seen her grace the cover of fashion magazines. "I guess it was a lot [to deal with]."
Cappellini and Lanotte are in sixth place after Sunday's short dance at the Iceberg Skating Palace and are the reigning European champions. They are close friends with the leaders, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and value the importance of the strong chemistry that can come from years of working in unison toward a common goal.
"I think our relationship is very helpful to our partnership," Cappellini said. "It can be as friendly as we need it to be, of course, not too friendly anymore.
"We don't have to spend so much time together, but we can have fun together if we have to. If we are alone together in some corner of the world training, we can hang."
Added Lanotte: "We have been through so much together."
Both skaters now have other romantic partners, which to a casual observer would surely create the potential for significant awkwardness, especially with the amount of time the athletes spend together and travel together and the fact that competitive dances are often intended to portray a couple in love. White is so determined to make the judges and crowd believe he is in love with Davis that he tried to hide his relationship with Tanith Belbin, the stunning former skater and now NBC analyst.
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The Italians' attempts to safeguard against any jealousy from their loved ones is made easier because both are with people who know and understand the nature of the sport. Cappellini lives with her boyfriend Ondrej Hotarek, who competed for Italy in pairs last week placing 11th with Stefania Berton. Lanotte is living with Eve Bentley, a British-born former figure skater.
"Now we are pals," Lanotte said of he and Cappellini. "We both have our private lives and we are very happy about it. We are friends, we are like family, we love each other.
"My girlfriend can understand all the sacrifices and all the times that I have to go away. For sure, it helps because she knows this crazy world, how it works. She is sure that I love her and love just her."
A favorite game of skating fans is figuring out which tandems are dating. German pairs skaters Maylin and Daniel Wende got married last year, while Chinese duo Qing Pang and Jian Tong mentioned their relationship in their official pre-skate bio and will reportedly wed after the Games.
Canada's Olympic champions from 2002, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, got married but subsequently divorced, while Russian tabloids love speculating whether pairs gold medalists Tatiana Volosozhar an Maxim Trankov are a real-life item.
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But can such relationships work in the long run?
"It really depends on the people," Cappellini said. "There are more couples that are not together but it happens. Sometimes when you spend so much time to work [together] you really get to know the other person so that can really help in a relationship. Or maybe when you spend too much together you don't want any problems in the work life to come home with you."
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