Till ski do us part

ERIC FRANCIS, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

With his arm draped around her back, Thomas Grandi and Sara Renner cosy up on the couch much the same way they have all summer in their Canmore home.

On the coffee table in front of them sits last year's medal haul -- his two World Cup giant slalom gold medals bookending her bronze medal trophy from the Nordic world championships.

Wearing world-class smiles showcasing perfect teeth that glean with every photo's flash, the only thing missing from the married pair is a saucy, amalgamated nickname like Grenner or Rendi.

Oh, and a pair of Olympic medals.

"This Olympics has kind of been the guiding light for both of us and neither of us has planned much after the Olympics," said Grandi, 33, the world's third-ranked giant slalom skier, who will call it quits after Torino -- his fourth Olympics.

"The storybook ending is obviously gold medals for both of us. We were just in Torino, covering all our bases so we give ourselves the best chance to have success."

Home for three more days before starting their journey towards Olympic glory on paths that won't allow them to meet for more than a dozen or so days before the Torino Games in February, Canada's Olympic Couple spoke yesterday of their unique relationship and the independent journeys that have both focused on the same goal.

"We both understand what we're after and, for now, that's our priority in life," said Grandi, the first Canadian male to win a World Cup technical event. "We've given each other room to manoeuvre in terms of making decisions for our sports even if that means I won't see her at Christmas."

At least there's a chance their European treks will cross over the holidays. That possibility has been eliminated for the opening ceremony, Renner said, as she races the next day in what could be her last Games, too.

"The Olympics really isn't about the experience for me anymore. It's about the performance," said Renner, 29, a two-time Olympian and the first Canadian to climb a cross-country skiing podium at the worlds.

"I'm OK sacrificing an opening ceremony for a great closing ceremony, walking in knowing that I've done something great."

Gaining prominence and confidence last year with history-making seasons, the fact two of Canada's best bets in Torino just happen to be married will only boost their rising profile as the 2006 Winter Games draw near.

Canadian chef de mission Shane Pearsall admitted "it could become the story of the Games.

"It could be like Jamie (Sale) and David (Pelletier)."

Their careers blossoming soon after their wedding in the spring of 2003, the two are ready for the increased expectations and pressure that will come with being the nation's most athletic couple.

Alpine Canada's Max Gartner believes they'll easily handle that pressure.

"A marriage like this can work for some and not for others --

I just look at the performance curves ... they don't lie," said Gartner, who married downhiller Kerrin Lee in 1989, only to watch her win Olympic gold three years later.

"His performance level has gone up a notch as has hers. They're both very grounded."

Having met 10 years ago this Halloween (he was a Chilean, she was a crow), Renner said the two leaned on one another through tough years before last season.

"Whatever happens on the race course, it's OK," said Renner of the best advice he ever gave her.

"I hate to kind of count the days we spend apart -- it makes me depressed -- but I think it's probably half the year. But when

I come home, he's not married to me because I'm a great skier -- he's married to me because I'm me. We really support each other as people and that's the best part."


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