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Engaged ice dancers face off at Olympics

Three years after Adrian Diaz popped the question to Madison Hubbell, the two Olympic ice dancers are looking forward to finally planning their dream wedding.

First, though, they’ll have to spend Valentine’s Day in a most awkward way – competing against each other.

Hubbell and her longtime competition partner, Zachary Donohue, are in third place and aiming for a medal when the American duo concludes competition on Monday with the free dance.

Diaz and his partner, Olivia Smart, are farther down the standings as they try to improve on their rhythm dance with a memorable final performance for Spain.

“It has never been a very close fight,” Diaz said almost sheepishly.

Indeed, Hubbell and Donohue are among the elites of the ice dance world, a pair that was once an off-ice couple but was so good on it that they stayed partners – and best friends – even when the relationship ended.

Along the way, they’ve captured a pair of silver medals at the world championships and were fourth at the Pyeongchang Games.

Diaz and Smart have never finished in the top 10 at the world championships.

So the two pairs are competing against each other in the literal sense. But in the practical sense, there isn’t much competition at all.

that takes all of the stress out of what could be a tricky, delicate situation, allowing Hubbell and Diaz to be each other’s biggest fan on the rare occasions that they actually have a chance to sit in the stands.

During the team event last week, when Hubbell helped the United States win the silver medal, Spain did not have a team competing in the event.

“It was especially special for me to have my fiance in the stands,” Hubbell said, “because usually we’re focused on our event so much that we don’t get to see each other in person. So I’m really happy to have him able to be there.”

There are several couples competing at the Winter Olympics, and they count themselves fortunate:

The closed-loop system put in place to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks included a ban on foreign visitors, so those who arrived in Beijing with their significant other as a coach, teammate or even a rival, will spend Valentine’s Day together.

Diaz even said he had a gift for Hubbell, although he wouldn’t spoil the surprise Saturday night.

Montana-born ice dancer Tim Koleto also planned ahead, bringing a gift for his wife, Misato Komatsubara. After all, boxes of chocolates are hard to come by in the Olympic bubble and a candlelight dinner is pretty much impossible.

There happens to be a florist in the Olympic Village, though – saving grace for those without the same forethought.

Most ice dance partnerships are not real-life couples, even though a necessary part of a winning program is showing off precisely that kind of chemistry. For them it’s an act, just like a dramatic performance on stage or screen.

Yet sometimes those partnerships turn into more. That was the case for American ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

The reigning national champion have been dancing together for more than a decade, and are at their third Olympics together, but they didn’t begin seriously dating until several years after beginning the partnership.

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