Will country come before love for two Olympic curlers on Valentine’s Day?

COLUMN | It was hours from Valentine’s Day here, an expected day of love, romance, devotion and loyalty at the Sochi Games.

Well, unless you are Chinese curler Xu Xiaoming. Then you roll a big, fat rock to knock love, devotion and loyalty out of the concentric circles of living happily ever after — while killing any chance of romance or remotely hooking up.

You forget the flowers and candy to essentially forgo your sacred covenant with your betrothed for rampant nationalism and being a deadbeat husband.

I am not saying Xu is the worst spouse in Olympic history. I’m just saying that after Friday, Jeff Gillooly, Tonya Harding’s ex who conspired to whack Nancy Kerrigan on the knee, will be No. 2.

If you didn’t already know, Xu, the third-stone thrower for China’s unbeaten curling team here in Sochi — (I know what you’re thinking: “What’s a third-stone thrower?” I can’t tell you, so just go with it) — is married to a sweet, beautiful woman who unconditionally loves and supports him.

Her name is Kim Ji-sun. She Xu so much her Facebook profile picture is of the two of them lying on the ice — Xu on his tummy, propping his elbows up; Kim resting on his back. Curling stone and broom are in front of them. In their national curling uniforms, they look lovingly at each other in the photo, as Olympic curlers are wont to do.

Kim is the skip (captain-guide-Alpha female) of South Korea’s women’s team, which took on the Russian hotties (smoking-attractive curlers who actually pose for fundraising calendars) Thursday night.

Xu and Kim are practically newlyweds, having exchanged vows in May after meeting on a Chinese curling rink in 2007. This will be their first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple.

And it might just be their last.

See, China faces Kim’s South Korean women’s team Friday in round-robin play, putting her husband in an admittedly precarious position: rooting for his wife to beat the snot out of his homeland. Except Xu says it’s not precarious or difficult at all. He is determined to root against his wife. On Valentine’s Day!

“I think the Chinese team is very strong,” he said, adding he not only believes China will win but would be tickled red if it does.

“Through curling we have a lot of interaction with the Chinese female team, so I would be very happy if they won.”

This is not a made-up story. The man is actually taking his country over his beloved. Forget the “God, Family, Country” tattoo on the biceps. Just make it “China, China, China” and put a cot in the basement, sugar britches.

Really, it makes you wonder two things:

1) What exactly Xu is talking about when he says “a lot of interaction with the Chinese female team”?

And, 2) Is Kim’s “picker” broken? Really, did she select the wrong man to be her life partner?

It’s a fair question, right? I have a deadline. Again, just go with it.

I don’t want to completely indict Xu. Everyone knows love is complex. Sometimes it’s patient. Sometimes it’s kind. Love does not envy, does not boast and it is not proud. Sometimes it googles Corinthians 13: 4-8.

But at no point does love actively root against your talented, smart, attractive and ultra-supportive spouse. Even Xu’s wife knows this.

“Of course I would cheer for the Korean team because those are my countrymen,” Kim said. “But I would at the same time be cheering for China because that is my husband. In the end, I would hope for my husband that he would win.”

Now, unless there is a bad Korean-to-English translator here at the curling complex, the South Korean skip said she would have to use her last curling stone (the hammer) to knock national pride out of the rink, ensuring love ended up right in the middle (the button) of those concentric circles.

This is a big story because contrary to the J. Geils Band, love doesn’t stink. It organically just happens at the Olympics. The Daily Telegraph reported the largest baby boom in 40 years after the London Games, a reported 700,000 births nine months later.

To cut down on the number of love children during the Games, the International Olympic Committee endorses distributing condoms to athletes in the Athletes’ Village. To my knowledge, the IOC has been doing this since the Summer Games in Sydney.

For all the rollicking summer fun, however, nowhere are dalliances and true romance more possible than at the Winter Games.

People get cold. They nuzzle. Pheromones are released. Incredibly personal things are divulged to strangers in the night. Sometimes these clandestine moments are forever locked in time’s vault — agreed-upon pacts between lovers, which roughly translate to, “What happens in Albertville stays in Albertville.”

NowThis News runs the numbers on how some Olympic athletes pass their time when not competing, and the, um, safety measures in place for them at the Olympic Village. (NowThis News)

Anyhow, The Post last thoroughly reported on curling in 2006 when Dan Steinberg got lost on his way to the Holland House at the Turin Games. But when Xu’s act of marital treason was communicated at the media dorm wine bar earlier this week at, like, 4 a.m., we got right back to the rink to interview these two stone-crossed lovers.

Why? Because most of us who spend Valentine’s Day away from the apple of our eyes would give anything to be with that person on that very day because we dearly miss them and also because it alleviates us of tremendous guilt — for flying 6,000 miles away to a 65-degree paradise where you can ski the mountains by day and sail the Black Sea by night while your betrothed is left to shovel the average annual snowfall of Everest from your driveway.

So when we hear stories of possible marital discord like this, we embellish them — even if Kim says things are fine at home and she plans to be with Xu forever in spite of his highly questionable rooting interests.

“We will be together at the end of the season, so now doesn’t matter,” Kim said through an interpreter after she pushed South Korea past Russia. When it comes down to it, she added, “I think he will cheer up the Korean team only. No Chinese team. This is what I believe.”

When relationships teeter, we see what we want to see, don’t we?

Bottom line, we are using Xu Xiaoming as an example to get ourselves off for leaving the kitchen in ruin and not taking out the trash before we left for three weeks.

He conveniently becomes “that husband.”

As in, “I know things have been tough, honey, especially with me being on other side of the world while you have to do everything at home. But at least I didn’t pick my national team over you on Valentine’s Day — like that heartless curler from China. The chocolate is in the mail. Love, Me.

For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post.
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