Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn: It just might work, based on other celebrity sports couples

Call us naive, but frankly, we think this Tiger Woods-Lindsey Vonn thing might work.

We’ll stipulate that the way they took their relationship public Monday was little odd. A big announcement on Facebook — who does that? Although there’s some savvy in getting ahead of the rumors, one celebrity PR maven argues, that “They said way too much,” overspinning and oversharing (those photos!) in a way that looked like a publicity stunt and made us all a little uneasy.

“There’s no one not thinking of his earlier antics,” our expert said. (By the end of the Day-One news cycle, the Internet had dug up and chuckled over a 2010 Time interview in which Vonn mocked Woods’s sorry-for-all-those-affairs news conference.)

And yet the pairing of one of history’s best golfers and an Olympic gold-medal skier makes sense when you look at the many successful couples who are top-of-their-field athletes.

Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko. (Koji Watanabe/ Patrick McDermott/ Getty Images
Alex Ovechkin and Maria Kirilenko. (Koji Watanabe/ Patrick McDermott/ Getty Images

There are the cute couples du jour, like Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin and tennis star Maria Kirilenko, who got engaged over the holidays. And golf’s latest boy-wonder, Rory McIlroy, who has been dating former top-ranked tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki for a couple of years now. And NASCAR sensations Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who candidly chatted about their new relationship at a pre-race news conference last month.

And though Hollywood marriages get all the attention, is it possible that the sports marriages last longer? Consider soccer goddess Mia Hamm and former MLB slugger Nomar Garciaparra, celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. Tennis superstars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, coming up on their 12th. Track-and-field gold medalists Al Joyner and Florence Griffith-Joyner were together more than a decade before her death. Beach volleyball champ Misty May-Treanor and MLB catcher Matt Treanor have been married eight years.

It doesn’t always work out — though pro golfer Nancy Lopez and World Series MVP Ray Knight had a long run, parting in 2009 after nearly three decades. Chamique Holdsclaw’s relationship with fellow WNBA player Jennifer Lacy ended with broken car windows and an arrest. The verdict is still out on soccer star Hope Solo and former Seattle Seahawk Jerramy Stevens, whose wedding last fall was preceded by a domestic-violence report. And Chris Evert certainly has a type, having dated Jimmy Connors before marrying another fellow tennis champ (John Lloyd), followed by an Olympic skiier (Andy Mill) and then a golfing champ (Greg Norman).

Nadia Comaneci and Bart Connor in 1994. (Andrei Iliescu/AP)
Nadia Comaneci and Bart Connor in 1994. (Andrei Iliescu/AP)

Any theories, Bart Conner?

The gymnast, who wed his fellow gold-medal Olympian Nadia Comaneci 17 years ago this spring, says that top athletes share a certain confidence and balance and might find comfort in being on equal footing professionally. “Naturally, a male athlete would automatically have a lot of respect for a successful female athlete,” he told us. “You can be rich or beautiful just by circumstances, but the only way you’re a champion is by working hard.”

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Amy Argetsinger | March 19, 2013