It’s rare to qualify for the Olympic Games — and it’s even rarer to compete alongside your significant other. But at the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics, track and field power couple Hunter Woodhall and Tara Davis will both be representing Team USA.
Woodhall, 22, is already a two-time Paralympic medalist, winning a silver and a bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 in the 200-meter and 400-meter sprints, respectively. Davis, also 22, will compete in the Olympics for the first time in the long jump.
For the couple, who fittingly met at a track meet in Idaho four years ago, trials were a whirlwind.
“Right after my race, I called Tara, we celebrated, and I was like, ‘Alright, we got one, one out of two is done,” Woodhall told CBS News over Zoom.
As soon as he finished competing, Woodhall said he quickly caught a plane from Minneapolis to Eugene, Oregon, to cheer Davis on during her trials.
“Just seeing Tara in her element, just absolutely killing it in every way, was super special,” he said. “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, the experience of becoming an Olympian felt surreal.
“Having him there was just unreal. Getting to hug him and getting to hug my family afterwards, it was just very, very special,” Davis said, adding that they went to a local bar after she competed to celebrate.
“I walk in there. And I started chanting U.S.A., getting applause, getting free drinks, I was like, ‘Wow, this is the life,'” she recalled, laughing.
A complicated journey to the Games
Woodhall was born with fibular hemimelia, a rare condition that prevented his lower legs from forming. His parents were told he may never walk and, ahead of his first birthday, his legs were amputated below his knees.
“They said I’d never walk, so I learned to run instead,” his Instagram bio says.
In middle school, he fell in love with running, eventually becoming one of the best runners in the U.S. — able-bodied or otherwise. After a long and difficult recruitment process, Woodhall became the first double amputee athlete to earn a D-1 scholarship, competing for the University of Arkansas.
He’s since gained nearly three million followers on social media, transitioning earlier this year from an NCAA athlete to a professional.
For Davis, injury after injury threatened to cut her athletic career short. But when the pandemic hit, it gave her the time she needed to fully heal from two broken vertebrae, a broken ankle and a broken hip, which would have prevented her from competing if the Olympics had taken place last year.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Another benefit of the pandemic? Woodhall and Davis finally had the opportunity to live together, no longer long-distance for the first time in their relationship.
“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.”
In the middle of it all, both Woodhall and Davis were diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I didn’t really have that many symptoms, however, the following two or three weeks after having it, getting back into training, I had a lot of respiratory— it was kind of hard to breathe,” Woodhall said. “I felt a little weaker than usual.”
For Davis, it was the opposite.
“Coming back to training wasn’t difficult, but I was extremely sick,” she said. “I was in bed for three days. I had every symptom, every symptom.”
A very different Games
The couple celebrated together when Davis became an Olympian — but they won’t be there for each other in Tokyo. Not only have fans been barred from attending, but with no overlap between their events, the athletes aren’t allowed to stick around to watch each other compete, which they said is one of the toughest parts to deal with.
“Zero,” Woodhall said when asked about how much time they will able to spend together in Tokyo. “I wish, I wish it was a lie. The rules are so regulated. They’re so intense. Now you have to be out 48 hours after your event…We understand, but it sucks.”
For now, both athletes are focusing on gold.
“Obviously, like we’re shooting for gold, but at the end of the day, a medal at the Games is paramount to any other athletic achievement in my mind, so I’m just happy to be representing our country and experience it together and then putting a cap on a really, really amazing season,” Woodhall said.
“I want to say that I’m shooting for gold, but I’m just so excited to be there and so excited to have fun and just be in that world of all these athletes I watch on YouTube, studying what they do and how they jump, and I’m excited to be like right next to them and compete next to them,” Davis said.
And what about their plans for life after the Games?
“To move into our house, get to move our animals and finally be in one roof under one roof,” Davis said, referring to her dog, Milo, and her cat, Azula.
“Move Tara here!” Woodhall said, a huge smile on his face. “That’s the biggest thing, like, heck yeah, so excited about it!”