How Six Olympians Are Training For Paris 2024 & Planning Their Weddings

Going for gold, figuratively and literally.
Collage of engaged Olympic couples
Photos: Courtesy of The Olympians,Design: Ashley Detmering
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Apr 30, 2024

Stating the obvious: Wedding planning can be a time commitment. In fact, according to The Knot 2023 Real Weddings Study, engaged couples spend an average of seven hours per week planning. Now imagine adding "train for the Olympics" to the to-do list. In the years leading up to the next Games, most athletes fill their schedules with rigorous physical training, tournaments and qualifying matches, leaving limited time for celebrations and recovery during off periods. Who else is exhausted just thinking about it?

With all that goes into representing their country on the world's biggest athletic stage, it's common for athletes' personal milestones (like engagements and weddings) to coincide with training. So what's it like to go from the gym to the rehearsal hall and back again? Ahead of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, we caught up with six hopefuls to explore how they've planned their weddings while chasing their Olympic dreams.

Meet the Athletes:

Abbey Weitzeil | Maggie Steffens | Kaleigh Gilchrist | Justine Wong-Orantes | Alex Bowen | Charlotte Caslick

Abbey Weitzeil and Michael Jensen

Sport: Women's Swimming

US Olympic swimmer Abbey Weitzeil and fiancé Michael Jensen
Photo: Courtesy of Abbey Weitzeil,Photo: Getty Images,Design: Ashley Detmering

Olympic swimmer and two-time American record holder Abbey Weitzeil competed in the 2016 and the postponed 2020 Games and won gold, silver and bronze medals. She has her sights set on a third run in Paris—less than two months before she marries Michael Jensen in September. The couple, who met as swimmers at the University of California, Berkeley, says the timing wasn't intentional. But Weitzeil acknowledges that the Olympics inadvertently determined when they'd swap vows. "We didn't think about it like that, but we do plan our lives around four-year cycles. You have to live a certain way to have this kind of lifestyle," Weitzeil says.


As of early 2024, the Olympic hopeful has been in what she calls "grind mode," a strict schedule that consists of six or seven training sessions a week, often with multiple workouts a day (both in the water and at the gym). "Every day, everything I do is around swimming," she says. With Paris potentially marking her third appearance at the Games, Weitzeil acknowledges that the pressure is different this time around. Now that she's no longer a rookie, expectations are high. Plus, she's using her off days to get through the final items on her wedding to-do list.

Luckily, though, she's no stranger to the balancing act. "I thrive under pressure," she says with a smile. "I always have."


For Weitzeil, planning for her nuptials has been a welcome break from training. With plans to marry in Napa Valley, she and Jensen have thrown themselves into the fun details, like securing a live band and choosing signature cocktails. "I've always said my dream for my wedding is to dance all night long," she says. "I want to celebrate. To be with all of our friends is what I'm so excited for."

The couple has hired a full-time wedding planner and relied on the suite of planning tools from The Knot to simplify the process. ("They're so easy to use," Weitzeil says.) In an effort to be present, Weitzeil is savoring the engagement. "I see planning not as a chore, but as an exciting thing I get to look forward to," she says. Her priorities are as clear as the water she treads in: "It's definitely swimming first, wedding second. That's in my blood, and it's just the way it is."

If there's one golden lesson Weitzeil has picked up, it's that having perspective is key. "It's really not that deep," she laughs. "Know what you need to be picky about, and have fun with it."

Maggie Steffens and Bobby Conner

Sport: Women's Water Polo

US Women's water polo player Maggie Steffens and husband Bobby Conner
Photo: Courtesy of Maggie Steffens,
Photo: Wedding Mafia Photography
Photo: Getty Images,Design: Ashley Detmering

Three-time Olympian Maggie Steffens got engaged to her now-husband, Bobby Conner, in 2022—but the moment was orchestrated about a year in advance. "As Olympians, we work in four-year increments," Steffens says. "After Tokyo, we had our eyes on the calendar. I was like, 'Bobby, you better propose quick. If we want to get married, we don't have a lot of time.'"


Steffens is no stranger to the pressure of preparing for the Olympics. The US water polo player was an immediate star in the sport: In her debut at the 2012 Games, she tied the Olympic record for the most goals scored by an individual player in one match. This time around, her Olympic prep for Paris consisted of 25 to 35 hours of high-intensity physical and mental training six days a week. (Four or five of those are double-practice days.) The cycle didn't leave a lot of time for planning her November 2023 wedding in Puerto Rico—but that's where her vendors came in.


Since the US water polo team calendar largely determined Steffens' schedule, it was easy to select a wedding date. "If I wanted to get married in 2023, I essentially had one open date," Steffens says. The art of multitasking is something she's had to master as an Olympian. "This is what we've been doing our whole lives: balancing and prioritizing," she says. Steffens also relied heavily on her destination planner, who helped complete tasks from afar and connected her with local pros. "I've gotten on a call with my florist three times and she's been like, 'Hey, how are you doing? Still like these colors?'"

The couple's November 2023 wedding took place one week after the team's Olympic qualifying tournament in Chile. (The US won gold, securing their spot in Paris.) With two major life events back-to-back, she had to tap into her compartmentalization skills to give each moment its proper attention. "You have to have perspective on what's important in life," Steffens shares. "My wedding is a very important milestone, as is training for the Olympics. It definitely has moments of high stress, but it also has moments where it's a fun thing to talk about with teammates and friends."

Kaleigh Gilchrist and Tom Gehret

Sport: Women's Water Polo

US Women's water polo player Kaleigh Gilchrist and fiance Tom Gehret
Photo: Courtesy of Kaleigh Gilchrist,Photo: Getty Images,Design: Ashley Detmering

Maggie Steffens didn't go through her wedding journey alone. She experienced the thrill of planning and training with her close friend and teammate, Kaleigh Gilchrist. In September 2022, two-time gold medalist Gilchrist got engaged to her partner, Tom Gehret.


When it comes to balancing work and wedding to-dos, it helps that both Gilchrist and Steffens are seasoned athletes who know how to manage Olympic pressure. "This is Maggie's fourth time going through this and my third," Gilchrist reflects. "Now that we've done it a few times, we understand ourselves and what we need as athletes. Plus, knowing what this process looks like helps us understand when it's time to focus on weddings and when it's time to focus on water polo."

For Gilchrist, wedding planning has become a welcome distraction from her strenuous training. "I haven't gotten to the stressful part of planning yet, so my break from water polo has been wedding planning," she says, adding that it lets her tap into a creative side she doesn't often get to use.


The couple will marry this summer in Santa Barbara, California, two weeks after what could be the women's water polo gold medal match. With the date fast approaching, Gilchrist and Gehret have wasted no time. "I signed a contract for our venue in 2022," she says. "It was almost two years before the date and my planner was like, 'This might be the earliest anyone signed their venue.'"

Beyond securing her vendors early, Gilchrist relied on her partner for support through the challenge of wedding planning while training for an Olympic run. "Our guys are both hands-on and help with decision-making," she says of her and Steffens's beaus. "They don't say, 'Do what you want.' They have an opinion and are organized. Plus, when we're traveling or practicing, they can quickly jump in."

If there's one piece of advice Gilchrist has for other to-be-weds it's that, above all, communication is critical. "Know what's most important to you on your wedding day, because it's your day," she says. "You're not having it for family or your guests. They're there to celebrate you. If you can communicate what's important, it makes planning much easier."

Justine Wong-Orantes and Andrew Pham

Sport: Women's Volleyball

US women's volleyball player Justine Wong-Orantes and Andrew Pham
Photo: Courtesy of Justine Wong-Orantes,
Photo: Lauren Holt
Photo: Getty Images,Design: Ashely Detmering

It's fitting that volleyball brought Olympian Justine Wong-Orantes and her fiancé, Andrew Pham, together. After meeting at a tournament, their friendship blossomed into romance—and in May 2022, Pham popped the question.


"When we first got engaged, the Olympics were always in the back of my mind," Wong-Orantes says. "I didn't want to get married and then have to play an eight- or nine-month season abroad and be away from him. I asked him if he'd be okay with having a long engagement and getting married after the Olympics. Then I could be home for good. Since he plays volleyball, he understands my lifestyle."

The couple's wedding will take place in Texas in October, and Wong-Orantes—who's currently on a team in Germany—has done much of her planning from abroad. In the spring, she hopes to rejoin the US women's national team to prepare for her second Olympic run. (She won gold during her first appearance at the Tokyo Games.)


The couple has used their long engagement to their advantage, securing key vendors well in advance, like their venue, photographer, videographer and glam team. "We've had such a team effort," Wong-Orantes says. Pham has taken on plenty of tedious planning tasks, like mailing save-the-dates. "He's been all hands on deck."

Despite the mounting pressure for the 2024 Games, Wong-Orantes has used her wedding planning journey as a creative reprieve from the intense physical regimen that comes with Olympic training. One of her favorite activities was a vision board night with her teammates, which she used to help conceptualize the wedding. "I wouldn't say I'm the most creative, but I found a lot of joy and peace in having this vision board," she muses. "It's been a relaxing and calming thing to do outside of training."

Looking past her second potential Olympic run, Wong-Orantes is excitedly awaiting her Texas nuptials, which will include Asian wedding traditions to honor both her and Pham's heritages. Considering the two have yet to put down roots, she says she's looking forward to creating their home as newlyweds—hopefully with another gold medal on display.

Alex Bowen and Hilary Hansen

Sport: Men's Water Polo

US Men's water polo player Alex Bowen and fiance Hilary Hansen
Photo: Courtesy of Alex Bowen,
Photo: Valerie O'Reilly
Photo: Getty Images,Design: Ashley Detmering

Alex Bowen and Hilary Hansen experienced plenty of fireworks on July 4, 2021. Bowen, a two-time Olympian, was set up on a blind date by his water polo teammate…who happened to be Hansen's cousin. Although the meet-cute scheming began around Christmas the year before, it took seven months to come to fruition due to Bowen's strict training schedule. Finally, on the Fourth of July, the couple had their first date—and the rest was history.


After that fateful holiday, in which Bowen inadvertently met Hansen's entire family, he was off to participate in the Tokyo Olympics. "I thought, 'Okay, I'm not going to hear from this guy for a month, because he's going to leave for the Olympics," Hansen recalls. "But the next thing I knew, I was getting FaceTimes from Tokyo every day."

The couple embarked on a long-distance relationship, with Hansen frequently traveling to Europe to cheer on her S.O. during his international tournaments. "My year consists of playing abroad professionally in late August or early September," Bowen explains. "We come back [to the States] for Christmas, then go back out in January. We finish the season in May, then come back to the US and play for the national team."


Although they got engaged in Paris in 2022, Bowen and Hansen already knew the place where they'd exchange vows. With the Paris Olympics on the athlete's radar, they determined that Labor Day 2024 would be the ideal time to get married—especially because it allowed plenty of time to reserve their dream venue: a church in Coronado, California, that has deep familial ties for Hansen.

Not only is it where her parents and grandparents got married, it's also the burial site for her father, a lifelong water polo fan who unexpectedly passed away just days before Hansen and Bowen met. "It's the only place her dad can be present and watch her walk down the aisle," Bowen says.

Once their venue was booked, Hansen—who used to work in day-of coordination services—quickly hired her former colleague, Jennifer Hughes of Laurel Street Events. "I've known Jennifer almost my whole life, so I knew I wanted her to design our wedding because she's just so talented," she explains.

Although Bowen's intense training schedule has kept him in Europe during the majority of their planning process, he was adamant about being involved in "every wedding decision." For them, that meant establishing a routine transcending time zones where they could put aside time for wedding planning phone calls to go over every single detail, from the floral arrangements to the color palettes. Now, the two are counting down the days to their "clean" and "classically chic" Southern California nuptials. "I think it's going to be pretty magical," Bowen says with a smile.

Charlotte Caslick and Lewis Holland

Sport: Women's Rugby

Australian rugby player Charlotte Caslick with fiancé Lewis Holland
Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Caslick,Photo: Getty Images,Design: Ashley Detmering

Power couple checking in. Charlotte Caslick and Lewis Holland are both Australian rugby stars: She took home gold with the women's team in 2016 and advanced to the quarterfinals in the postponed 2020 Games; he competed in both Games as well. They met through rugby in 2013, and dated for seven years before getting engaged in 2020.


Holland has since retired from the sport and begun a career as a farmer in Australia, but Caslick has set her sights on a third consecutive Olympic appearance. In the months leading up to the Games, her schedule is filled with training and travel. "We train five or six days a week, depending on what time of the season it is," she says. Before they can compete in Paris, Caslick and her team will be collecting passport stamps from Canada, the US, Hong Kong, Singapore and Spain. "Then before Paris," she says, "we'll probably spend a few weeks in Montpelier [France] at a training camp."


Caslick admits that wedding planning has been on pause—not only so she can focus on her training, but also because they've had to change their plans twice so far. The couple intended to swap vows in 2020 until the pandemic forced them to postpone. "By that stage," Caslick explains, "the original wedding that I wanted wasn't the wedding I wanted two years later. We're going to come back to it when we're ready."

The athletes were initially going to host a 300-person ceremony at the barn Holland built on their farm. They still want a celebration with their loved ones, but Caslick has a new vision. "I'd love to get married in Vegas," she says coyly. "I still need to convince him."

While planning the 2020 wedding, Caslick quickly realized the importance of working with professionals. "My original wedding planner was so helpful, especially with my busy schedule," she says. She's also picked up tips from her fiancé's mother, who happens to be a wedding caterer.

Now that Caslick's reimagining her wedding, she's downsizing her original concept. "I love the chapel-style wedding—they're really cool," she says of her Vegas vision. And once the Games are over and the vows (finally) exchanged, she envisions a new, more peaceful milestone: "We kind of live married life already, but I'm excited to be able to live together on our farm."

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