They are a golden couple on and off the court – and are clearly besotted with each other.
Huddersfield badminton star Marcus Ellis and partner Lauren Smith are mixed doubles partners on the badminton court and a love match off it.
Formidable as a sporting duo, at home they are relaxed and comfortable in each other’s company.
Last year was a year of disappointment for the two Team GB athletes as the Tokyo Olympics were postponed and re-scheduled for July 2021.
But the couple worked through the crushing disappointment together, training at the home they share in Milton Keynes, knowing their chance of Olympic glory would come again.
Huddersfield-born Marcus, 31, who grew up in Bolster Moor, said: “When the Olympics were called off it was a dark day in our household. It’s all we had been training for and thinking about for 18 months or two years.
“It was devastating at the time and we had to have a reset. We were told it was going to go ahead a year later so we just had to hope the world turned a corner.”
It’s still not certain that the Olympics will go ahead but Marcus and Lauren, ranked No12 in the world, are pushing to be there.
They’ve been mixed doubles partners since they were put together as a trial in 2018. They clicked on and off the court and became a couple.
“We knew each other before, of course, but the on-court relationship turned into a relationship off the court and we just spent more and more time together,” said Marcus.
“When you travel as much as we do you get to know each other really well. We moved in together 18 months ago and some couples might have had enough of each other living and working together but it seems to work for us!
“We are both very relaxed people in general and we have the same life goal for a start, which is very useful. I can motivate Lauren when she’s not feeling it and vice versa. It just works.”
I asked Lauren what it was that made her fall in love with Marcus. It stumped her for a moment and then she said she found him “hilarious.”
I wasn’t sure that was the right word for Valentines’ Day so we settled on “irresistible” instead. Marcus liked that.
Lauren, 29, composing herself after a fit of the giggles, said they’d been friends on the circuit for years and they “shared the same sense of humour.” Oh, that’s what she meant by “hilarious.”
Getting a bit more serious, Lauren added: “Marcus is a very thoughtful and considerate person in any situation.
“His worst trait is his stubbornness but maybe that’s a positive as well as a negative because that’s why he’s got where he is. But I love him – for my sins!”
I asked about wedding bells and there’s none on the horizon, understandable with the Olympics looming large.
The couple have an American cocker spaniel called Luna and Marcus gave a hint about the future when he said: “We have a dog together. I think we have to be together forever now for the sake of the dog!”
Luna might have to pine for her owners if Marcus and Lauren head for Japan this summer.
Marcus, of course, is already an Olympic bronze medallist having partnered Chris Langridge to podium success in the men’s doubles at the Rio games in 2016.
Marcus, who started playing badminton at the age of six, also won gold, silver and bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, another career highlight.
“It seems like a long, long time ago since Rio but if I had told myself aged 18 that I was going to win an Olympic medal I would have taken that.”
Marcus was introduced to badminton by dad John, himself a keen player. Marcus will be forever grateful to parents John and Sheila for driving him around the country in his younger days. They might have even forgiven him now for quitting his studies at Huddersfield New College and leaving his hometown to pursue his dream.
Marcus hopes to chase a medal in both the men’s doubles and the mixed doubles with Lauren but he might need that stubborn bloody-mindedness.
Mind over matter could be needed and Marcus said: “It will be a big physical challenge playing two events.”
Marcus and Lauren have just come back from a tournament in Thailand and qualification for the Olympics isn’t guaranteed but Marcus is focused and determined.
“Myself and Lauren have beaten all but three pairs and we know that on our day we have a shot against anyone,” he said.
“You have to treat the Olympics as just another tournament and you have to perform on the day. We do feel confident we have a medal opportunity.”
The countdown is on to the Olympics but Marcus and Lauren will celebrate Valentines’ Day quietly – like everyone else.
“Lauren is not crazy about Valentines’ Day which is good for me,” smiled Marcus. “We’ll just cook a lovely meal at home and take the dog for a walk.”
Sounds like the perfect day for a couple who are just happy to be together, at work or play.