Bratislava, Slovakia – In retrospect, the marriage of Dana Benusova (SVK) and Scott Mann (USA) could seem as if it were pre-destined.
Look closely at photos in the family photo albums, you can find one or the other in each others pictures from the time they were youngsters first competing in the junior canoe slalom ranks in 2000, both in K1. Though they knew of each other since 2001, it wasn’t until one day in 2007 they officially met. Scott was working his way up a course just goofing around trying some things, floundering and flipping. “It was hilarious,” Dana said.
Laughter led to conversation, Dana speaks good English while Scott admits to trying but usually butchering Slovak. Conversation turned into a three-year intercontinental courtship that escalated to marriage last October.
The Mann’s note they aren’t pioneering new ground. Among the trendsetters in intercontinental marriages is that of five-time World Champion Richard Fox, then paddling for the UK, and Olympic bronze medalist Myriam Jerusalmi (FRA). Their union created a new generation of paddler as their daughter Jessica Fox just entered the senior ranks of K1 and C1 for Australia, where her father is the National Performance Director for Australian Canoeing.
Dana explains that courtships on the slalom shouldn’t be that surprising. Athletes spend six months every year traveling and competing at the same events, so it’s pretty natural for relationships to blossom, although most tend to be among athletes from the same country.
The Mann’s joke about the happy coincidence of fringe benefits their marriage brings to their slalom careers. Scott’s been able to train more here in Bratislava, his wife’s hometown, in the leadup to these World Championships. Afterward, the tables will turn when Dana will benefit from being able to train at Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI), Scott’s home course in the US, which will be the host site of the 2014 World Championships.
As if paddling weren’t enough of a common bond, the Mann’s share yet another interest off the course. Both have academic backgrounds in, somehwat ironically, international relations. Dana already has her master’s degree while Scott is working on finishing his master’s at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Thankfully, the couple have no need to put into practice Scott’s studies in conflict resolution.