In an edition of The Ubyssey’s 5-on-5 column published for Valentine’s Day 2015, one of the athletes participating on behalf of the men’s rowing team mentioned his crush on Olympic athlete and Thunderbird Elizabeth Gleadle. As of March 2016, the couple have been together for 11 months.
“I had over two of my teammates from the men’s team and then a girl from the women’s team. [We] had a beer and pizza [and] we basically wrote this thing up,” said UBC rower Ray Bell of the 5-on-5 process. When he got to the last question asking him to spell out the name of a fellow UBC athlete he was secretly crushing on, Bell recalled his first time seeing his now-girlfriend. “I saw Liz back in the varsity gym. I saw her warming up and I asked one of my teammates, ‘Who’s that girl?’”
Gleadle, alternatively, did not know about Bell until the 5-on-5 had been published and posted all over her Facebook wall.
“I work out at UBC and I knew some of the guys [in the article], Ray not being one of them,” said Gleadle. After reading through all the questions and having a good time with it, Gleadle said her reaction to the last question was that “either this guy is a total jerk or he’s hilarious.”
Eventually, one of Bell’s teammates messaged Gleadle on Facebook to invite her to the UBC rowers’ Erg-a-Thon – an event hosted every year to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation – a month after the article had been published. Despite having to fly out to Phoenix the next day for training, Gleadle made it to the event and even managed to take a photo with her now-boyfriend.
After the picture was taken, Gleadle remembered Bell wanted to add her on Facebook in order to get the picture to use as his cover photo.
“He captioned it, ‘Dreams really do come true,’” said Gleadle. Bell said he thought nothing would come of it. “It was just a joke, being facetious.”
The couple continued to message on Facebook after the event, even while Gleadle continued with her training down south. She eventually came back to Vancouver for a week after some problems arose while training, seeking physiotherapy. During the week back home, she took some time to get to know her soon-to-be boyfriend.
“The whole joke was that he was going to come for an ice bath with me in the ocean, but the day that happened there was an oil spill,” said Gleadle. “So a casual jump into the ocean turned into walking on the beach, turned into drinks, turned into dinner, turned into playing Ping-Pong and singing as loud as we could in my basement.”
Gleadle had to return to training in Arizona the next day. Bell recalled he was left wowed, but did not want to think too much of it other than what he could not help – lots of wishful thinking. The couple’s relationship continued to progress through skyping or calling each other daily. Despite many trips made between Vancouver, Phoenix and now Lethbridge, the two athletes managed to make their relationship official.
“I’m up at 4:30 a.m. three mornings of the week, so I don’t exactly have the ability to go out … on a weekday night or even weekends,” said Bell, citing both their athletic schedules as the reason why their relationship works.
“We probably train roughly the same amount of hours,” agreed Gleadle. “It’s been awesome being together because I’ve started getting to bed earlier, which was really hard for me – I have to be up at 5:30 a.m.”
Bell and Gleadle encourage each other when it comes to new projects and Olympic dreams.
“Track and rowing are the things that needs to come first right now and we both understand that … we only have X amount of years or time before important events happen,” said Gleadle.
“It’s very symbiotic,” Bell added. “We both help each other with recovery, nutrition … we need to get back into meditation,” the couple joked. Bell also laughed about being a middle child now – his girlfriend has been accepted by his family as the new favourite.
These days, Liz is training for Rio while Ray is training with the ’Birds for the Brown Cup on March 26 as well as finishing up his studies. You can follow their progress on Twitter at @Javelizz and @Ray_Bell5.