Olympic Skaters Get Engaged on Ice
John Baldwin kneels in the middle of the ice to ask Rena Inoue to be his wife
John Baldwin didn’t win a gold medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this weekend – but he did get the girl.
Moments after he and Rena Inoue, his skating partner of seven years, completed their silver-medal-winning pairs performance Saturday, Baldwin, 34, got down on one knee in the middle of the ice and proposed.
As the crowd of spectators at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., read Baldwin’s lips on the jumbotron, they began chanting, “Yes! Yes!” But Inoue, for one, stood there dumbfounded.
“I was shocked!” Inoue, 31, tells PEOPLE. “I saw him on one knee and thought he was going to tell me how proud he was – and then he asked me to marry him. Then I started crying and I said yes.”
The two began skating together in 2000, after completing the respective singles careers (he skated for the U.S., she for Japan). They competed together at the Torino Olympics (finishing 7th) and have won two national pairs titles.
On Saturday, they finished second to skaters Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker – but that hardly seemed to matter to the ecstatic bride-to-be.
“I always thought we would never get married,” Inoue said. “He was always saying, ‘You can propose to me.’ He seemed serious.”
What prompted the change of heart? “When I woke up [that] morning, I decided now was the time,” Baldwin explained. “We have been together as a couple for five years and everything I have accomplished is because of her. I didn’t want to let anyone else have the chance.”
In all the rush, Baldwin didn’t have time get his fiancée a ring. “Even if I had one, it would have been hard to find a place to hold it on my outfit,” he pointed out, adding that he already has something in mind for their wedding bands. “She thinks of me as Snoopy and herself as Woodstock,” he explained. “I’ll probably do something with that.”
You’re a good man, Johnny Baldwin.