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How Olympic Track Stars Tara Davis and Hunter Woodhall Ran Away With Each Other's Hearts

Woodall, both with fibular hemimelia, had both of his legs amputated before his first birthday

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It's not as if athletes dating athletes is a new concept. It's only natural that elite competitors who spend most of their lives at the track, on the hardwood or in the pool would find a love connection at the office.

Even having two Olympians under the same roof is not unheard of. See: Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird. Fencing's Gerek Meinhardt and Lee Kiefer. Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir. (Okay, those last two only couple up in the commentators' booth, but still.)

Yet it was still hard not to be charmed when two-time Paralympic medalist Hunter Woodhall scooped up longtime girlfriend Tara Davis after her second-place finish in the long jump at the Olympic Trials June 26, later declaring on Instagram, "TARA LANE DAVIS YOU ARE AN OLYMPIAN!"

The photo of the couple — captured in all their coordinated, cowboy hat-wearing glory — quickly went viral and suddenly everyone needed to know everything about the adorably in love, ridiculously photogenic athletic duo.

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And their love story did not disappoint.

A meet-cute for the sporty set, California native Davis first spied Utah-bred Woodhall at a 2017 high school track meet in Pocatello, Idaho (one he'd come this close to skipping) and, uh, raced to make her move. It was his birthday, she recalled to Insider, "so everyone kept saying 'happy birthday,' and the announcer kept giving him shout-outs."

He had just won the 400-meter dash when Davis approached and delivered her now-storied opening line: "Hey, I just feel like I need to give you a hug."

She was drawn to him, really, she explained to Elle, "When I first saw him, I was like, 'Oh my god! This boy is fine!' I had to figure out who he was." He, in turn, was stunned. First of all, he told the mag, "She was gorgeous."

So gorgeous, in fact, that after spotting her the day before, he'd texted a pal that he'd found the girl he was going to marry. So when she wrapped him in an embrace, "I was like, 'Wow, this girl is bold — she knows what she wants."

Still, as he put it to The Orange County Register this past June, "I was nervous the rest of the meet to talk to her."

Thank goodness for social media. After the two followed each other on Twitter and Instagram, eventually advancing to text and Snapchat, Davis made the two-and-a-half-hour trip down to Chula Vista, CalifORNIA, where Woodhall was training that summer. "That's when we had our first kiss!" she proclaimed in a 2018 YouTube video. "First kiss, first dates, all that kind of stuff," he agreed.

And, as he put it to the Register, "the rest is kind of history. A really amazing journey."

The movie kinda writes itself, no?

Of course, Woodhall already had the sort of life experience great biopics are born from.

Born with fibular hemimelia, a rare congenital disability in which at least part of the fibula bone is missing, he had both legs amputated before his first birthday. Doctors told his parents he might never walk, so, as he likes to joke in interviews and on his Instagram bio, "I learned to run instead."

Quite quickly, it turns out, Woodhall's athletic skills and carbon-fiber blades carrying him to the University of Arkansas as the first double-amputee athlete to be offered a Division 1 NCAA scholarship.

Though that has meant the 22-year-olds have been living no closer than 525 miles apart for the whole of their romance.

A rough start to the high school phenom's career at the University of Georgia left Davis depressed, dealing with a fractured vertebra and trying her best to drown out the haters on message boards labeling her a washed-up failure. A subsequent transfer to the University of Texas left the American junior record holder sitting on the sidelines for all of 2019. Then, her 2020 season was cut short by the COVID pandemic, though it did give her a chance to fully heal from a series of injuries that had left her with another broken vertebra, a broken ankle and a broken hip.

We love Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir for being big and bold. But the NBC Sports commentators and former Olympians agreed to get really, really quiet for their first ASMR interview with NBCLX storyteller Fernando Hurtado. (And Johnny called it the strangest moment of their lives.)

Plus it gave her and Woodhall time to truly find their footing as a couple.

"Big facts — long-distance is horrible," Woodhall put it in a recent clip on their Tara and Hunter YouTube channel.

They've figured it out along the way, he told Elle, "by having communication, trust, and patience. Over the past four years, we learned how to communicate and operate as a couple. We have had countless situations where we had done badly on both sides, but we learned from those lessons and genuinely want to grow our relationship."

Now, continued Davis, "We try to see the other side of an argument. We try not to tell each other how we should feel."

Still, it was nice to be afforded the chance to hunker down together when COVID stopped the world in its tracks. Save for the two weeks they spent quarantining separately with their own cases of the virus, "It was the best six months," Woodhall raved to Elle. "We had no responsibilities, no one was calling us, and no one asked us to do anything. We just got to enjoy life."

Though, of course, they soon got back on their grind, with Davis breaking the collegiate record for both the indoor and outdoor long jump this past March (the latter of which was set by track legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee) en route to making her first Olympic team and Woodhall — who left Rio with a silver medal in the 200-meter and bronze in the 400-meter — qualifying for the 400- and 100-meter races.

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"I think COVID really set me up for success, just because I wasn't ready for the Olympics in 2020 due to injuries and due to sitting out. My body wasn't ready to be at that top level," Davis told CBS News. "I sat in COVID, I figured out who I was and just tuned in to my body and what I needed to do for the upcoming season. And luckily, my season played out really well."

As did their relationship experiment.

"Spending that time together, I think was a really necessary refresh, restart, where we can kind of just like, no responsibilities, no one is wanting us to do anything, let's just reset our minds, figure out what we really want to do in life and then move forward with that plan," Woodhall said. "So I think those six months really just, in a lot of ways, matured us. And showed me, I think, what I want for the future and what we want for the future, as a cohesive unit."

With Davis recently joining Woodhall as a professional track and field athlete, the two signing matching deals with athletic wear brand Champion, they can now finally, finally live under the same roof, with Davis, cat Azula and dog Milo set to join Woodhall in Fayetteville, Ark.

"Move Tara here!" Woodhall told CBS News when asked about their post-race plans. "That's the biggest thing, like, heck yeah, so excited about it!"

But first, there's a joint trip to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that, due to COVID-related restrictions, won't actually be a joint trip. Competitors can only enter the Olympic Village a few days before their event "and you have to be out of Tokyo 48 hours after you compete," Davis shared in one YouTube clip. Which means with the Paralympics not beginning until Aug. 24, Woodhall chimed in, "We will not be able to see each other in Tokyo."

So they really lived it up at the trials. After earning his way back to the games, Woodhall called up Davis and, he recalled to CBS News, "We celebrated, and I was like, 'Alright, we got one, one out of two is done.'" Then he caught a flight from Minneapolis to Eugene, Oregon.

"Just seeing Tara in her element, just absolutely killing it in every way, was super special," he said of being on hand to watch her compete. "And then being able to really share that moment together, where Tara made the Olympic team, we already know I'm on the Paralympic team, and it was just like, everything we've been through for the last four years has led up to this moment right now. And it was just super emotional."

For Davis, getting wrapped up in another trackside embrace, one that was both very similar and lightyears away from that first 2017 hug, "was just very, very special."

After all, Woodhall was the one fielding her calls when she was at her lowest, unsure when she'd ever have the chance to compete again and zapped of the confidence that had once powered her to the top of her game.

"That kid is my inspiration along with other people's," Davis admitted to the Register. "He has inspired me in so many ways in being happy and being positive and with him by my side, it has really changed who I am. I have a therapist. I have my parents and yeah, they're all super, super supportive, but he received the back end of everything. Things I don't tell my parents or don't tell my therapist and for him to stay with me and be with me and stay with me when I'm struggling and my lowest of lows is unreal. Unreal. I would honestly give him my life. I would give him everything because he genuinely saved my life."

A Turkish ice cream vendor in Tokyo is delighting children with his ice cream cone pranks.

It's a type of relentless, ride-or-die cheerleading that goes both ways.

"Tara's support means the world to me," Woodhall told Elle. "I don't think I could do it without her, and I don't think I would want to. Both of us have been through a lot, especially in our track careers. It's easier to get through stuff when we do it together."

And though they won't be tackling Tokyo together as planned, cheering each other to victories and then roaming the streets of Japan, they're stoked to at least be sharing the experience.

"I know it sounds cliche," Woodhall told USA Today after Davis' Olympics-solidifying jump, "but for us looking back and seeing everything that we've both been through up to this point, it's just a pinnacle moment. It's payoff for all the hard work we've done, and I just don't think it would be the same if it was one of us or the other."

As he put it in that initial 'gram, "I am so unbelievably proud of you, not just for what you did out there last night but for who you are. You have fought through more this year than some do in a lifetime. You deserve this more than anyone, and I am so grateful I get to watch you create your legacy."

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