Jessica & Nathaniel
Jessica and Nathanial at Beijing Olympics
From U of C Alumni Interview
UC: Where and when did you meet?
Jess: We met in our Knes 203 class. The class had to go for 5km runs a couple times a week. It didn’t take us long to find out that we ran close to the same pace, and so we ended up being running buddies and spent our runs chatting and getting to know each other.
UC: Was it love at first sight?
Nathaniel: I’d have to say so. I first saw Jessica sitting on the far side of the room from me in a KNES 213 class… She really stood out in part because it was about a month into the semester and I couldn’t believe that I had managed to “miss” her up until that point (turns out that she had been away competing in Europe for most of September, hence why I hadn’t seen her yet). Even though I was casually dating someone else at the time, I knew right away that I had to meet her… We have slightly different recollections of what happened next, but basically I asked her out, she said yes, and pretty much since that first date we’ve been inseparable, going on 4 years.
Jess: It was not love at first sight for me, mainly because my eyes were not open to new love. I wasn’t looking for a relationship at the time, after just coming out of a longer-term relationship. I was content in being just friends with Nathaniel, that is, until he convinced me to go on a date with him. As I started to really get to know Nathaniel, there was no doubt in my mind that I was ready, and more than willing, to be in a relationship with him.
UC: How did you manage to fit in dating with concentrating on your studies and what must have been rigorous training schedules for you both?
Jess: Being athletes, it’s always a balancing act. Sometimes you push the limits and extend yourself a little too much, but you quickly learn when it’s time to re-focus. Almost as soon as we started dating, we became good at incorporating “quality time together” with the things we need to do individually. Whether time spent together is eating, studying, going to yoga class, or going for runs, we have very similar lifestyles and interests making it easy and relatively stress-free to find time for each other.
UC: Who popped the question? Where, when and how did you do it?
Nathaniel: Friday May 16th, 2008, at our favorite restaurant in Calgary. An amazing little French bistro called “Fleur de Sel” (Calgary, on 4th street SW). It was the site of our first date, and since I knew on that night that I would one day marry Jessica, I figured it was the best place to propose. I stopped by earlier in the day and dropped off a CD of an artist that Jessica and I both love, and asked the always sympathetic owner if he could play it for me that evening; after we had dessert.
Though Jessica and I had been talking about marriage for a long time, she had no idea about what I was planning to do. In fact, during the course of the evening (after a minor slip-up in which the CD started playing while we were in mid-meal) Jessica noticed the music, and then decided to tell me that it “would” have been a perfect night for me to propose to her… With the ring now burning a hole in my pocket, I put on my best poker face and tried to calmly play it off, agreeing with her that it “would” have been perfect, and promising her that when the time was right, I would come up with something even better.
Once I felt sure enough that she wasn’t on to me, I quietly instructed the owner to replay the song that was supposed to start playing after dessert (“our song”). I took Jessica’s hand and we started to slow dance in a dim, nearly empty restaurant, and then I got down on one knee. She freaked out a little, convinced that I was only reacting to her comments about how perfect it “would” have been, but when I pulled out the box and showed her the ring, she burst into tears, realizing that it “was” the perfect night, and not by chance!
UC: Have you set a date yet?
Jess: As of now, an exact date has not been set.
UC: How did you do at the Olympics? What was the experience like? Were there any highlights (low-lights)?
Jess: I performed the way I hoped I would perform. I left the Games with a personal best and with a new Canadian record. I finished 5th place with a great overall score. The highlight for me was the competition itself over the two days. The Bird’s Nest was an amazing stadium to compete in, and my family (mom, dad, Aunt, two older sisters, Nathaniel and his mom) were all there in the stands cheering me on, which made it that much more memorable. (no low-lights)
Nathaniel: Our team placed 11th, which was 1 spot better than our world rankings. We had hoped to be able to crack the top-8 in the world at this event, but in the end our youth and inexperience proved to be a large obstacle to overcome (we were the youngest team at the competition, and the first Canadian men’s water polo team to actually qualify for the Olympics).
UC: I hear you’re living in Barcelona for awhile. How long do you plan to stay there? What is that like? (culture, scenery, people, daily life, etc.)
Jess: We arrived in Barcelona mid-September. Nathaniel signed a season contract that will terminate in May. Prior to now I had never been to Spain let alone Barcelona and my experience so far has been amazing. The city itself is full of life, and we are located right in the heart of it all. The Spaniards are very nice and are used to foreigners here in Barcelona. Our Spanish is coming along slowly. Both Nathaniel and I took a Spanish 201 course at U of C (shortly after we started dating), in which we were too busy flirting at the back of the class to remember much of what was taught!
UC: What are you currently doing in regards to work or training or competition?
Jess: Off until mid-October, then will resume training.
Nathaniel: Playing in the Spanish Premier League. I’ll be back with the Canadian National team for the World Championship qualification tournament hosted in Calgary in January 2009.
UC: Do you plan to have children? How many? How do you think the pressure will be on them to be super-achievers in the sports world?
Nathaniel: We certainly do plan to have children. I don’t think there will be any pressure on them. Despite our achievements in sports, we are both amateur athletes in Canada, so there is very little public or media scrutiny to worry about. While both of us live very active lifestyles and intend to impart that in our children, neither of us feels compelled to “push” our children to excel in sports. Being an elite athlete does create some wonderful opportunities and experiences, but it also requires huge commitments and sacrifices. Our children will decide for themselves what path is best for them and we will be behind them 100-percent; whatever that may be.
Jess: The most important thing is that our children will one day be able to find something that they are truly passionate about. If being an athlete doesn’t do it for them, then I can only hope that they will find happiness in what they end up choosing to pursue.
UC: What are your plans/dreams for the future?
We hope to continue being healthy and happy, and to raise a healthy and happy family. Given our personalities it’s safe to say that we’ll be looking for new challenges once our competing days are done. Also, we’d both like to be able to give back to our communities as volunteers once our training days are over. We recognize just how much our successes have come in part of the many volunteers across Canada who have made grassroots sports possible.
From U of C Alumni Interview
October 17, 2008