Spirit becomes one

TURIN, Italy -- It's the ski trip of a lifetime they've planned for years.

Finally, after decades of preparation, Thomas Grandi and Sara Renner are about to settle in for a two-week stay in the Italian Alps where they'll soak up every minute of a journey like no other.

Having researched the area so extensively they even toured their quaint accommodations this summer, the Canmore couple realizes it has all the makings for the most romantic of getaways.

Except for one small detail: They'll hardly see each other.

In fact, they're not even staying in the same resort.

"Actually, they just built a gondola from her town back up to mine, so it'll be easier to go visit her," said Grandi of his cross-country skiing wife who will spend Valentine's Day going for her first Olympic medal in the team sprint. "I haven't actually been living by Brazilian standards."

Heading into his fourth Olympics as Canada's top technical skier, the 33-year-old Grandi is well aware he and his wife will be under the brightest of spotlights in Turin given their status as Canada's golden couple.

Despite seeing each other less than three weeks each of the last few winters, both their careers have blossomed since their 2003 wedding.

Hitting the World Cup podium with regularity after years of frustration, the two have legitimate shots at Olympic glory -- a goal they've chased since they were teenagers.

"We both agreed a while ago the Olympics are our first priority and we support one another's every decision with that in mind -- even if it means we won't see each other at times," said Renner, 29, a world championship medallist who will reunite at the closing ceremony with her hubby.

"The Olympics really isn't about the experience for me anymore, it's about the performance. I'm OK sacrificing an opening ceremony for a great closing ceremony -- walking in knowing that I've done something great."

That said, she admits: "I hope I'll be taking the gondola a few times."

Canadian chef de mission Shane Pearsall predicts a couple like Grandi and Renner could become the story of the Games.

"They're both in the hunt -- it would be fantastic if they could get to the podium," said Pearsall, pointing to Grandi's two World Cup wins last year as the launching point for both of their recent success. "The story would just blossom and take off."

So would the rest of their life as they've both hinted starting a family could take precedent over Vancouver 2010.

Pushing one another to be among the world's best, the two see their time apart during the Games as a small price to pay in a lifetime of sacrifices.

Alpine Canada chief athletics officer Max Gartner -- whose highly-publicized pre-race rollicking with wife Kerrin Lee-Gartner helped propel her to Olympic gold in Albertville -- said relationships between athletes can go one of two ways. But because of their grounded nature and that both are among the world's elite, Grandi and Renner can effectively feed off one another to chase their goals.

"Both times (at the Olympics), we marched into the closing ceremonies together, which is something not a lot of couples get to do," said Grandi. "We want to do it without any regrets."

And with a pair of medals.