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  The roots of happiness
Salé and Pelletier are adamant the best things in life are free
  Sharon Dunn,
National Post

Who can forget Jamie Salé and David Pelletier's gold-medal win in pairs figure skating last year, that incredibly romantic routine titled Love Story. And a love story it is, perhaps the best one since Love Story itself, in 1970. Sandy-haired Pelletier looks and acts a bit like rebel Ryan O'Neal, and the wide-eyed, auburn-haired Salé is certainly reminiscent of Ali MacGraw. But this love story has ended with the two walking down the aisle.

"Let me straighten this out for everyone," says Salé. "We're not married, we're not even engaged." She points to her diamond ring, which has sparked many rumours, and says it is "only a friendship ring from my friend."

The friend is obviously Pelletier. And good friends they are. They even live together in Edmonton.

"We sure aren't thinking of marriage," Pelletier asserts. "We don't need it."

Yikes, he sounds pretty certain, I think, as I catch Salé's eye. "One day," she says in a whisper, "I want marriage and children. Down the road."

But she assures me the relationship is going smoothly. "He's very romantic," she confides. "It's not about the big things, it's about the little things, like he'll go for coffee and bring me home my favourite latte."

And the housework, I ask.

"He cleans the floors, vacuums, and sometimes he even does laundry," says Salé. "And we've never had a fight about money," then observes as an afterthought that this might be because they make exactly the same amount.

"Exactly," echoes Pelletier.

What that amount is they're not saying, but it will likely increase now that they are about to begin their professional careers. "We've signed a four-year contract to skate with Stars on Ice. We'll be skating with Kurt Browning," Pelletier says excitedly. "It's going to be awesome."

And there won't be any judges, I point out.

"That's a good thing," he agrees.

The world's most famous skaters say they are looking forward to the liberty they didn't have when they had amateur status. "We love to perform and be in front of people," says Salé. "In amateur skating, you're restricted, you can't do this, you can't do that. Now we can do whatever we want."

"Well, almost," Pelletier says with a laugh. "We have to skate to get our money.

"But we're not hockey players, that's for sure," Salé points out, the salary at Stars on Ice not approaching what a hockey star makes.

Salé and Pelletier are also adding their names to products, which is what brought them to the opening of the new Roots store at 100 Bloor St. W. last week. They'll be Roots' star attraction in its fall advertising campaign.

"Newspapers and people were bashing us for not making [endorsement] money following the Olympics. Usually it's the other way around, you bash people for making too much money."

The couple say they preferred to keep things low key after the Olympics, to give themselves time to relax and participate in celebrity charities.

"You have to give back," says Pelletier. "Money is not the motivating factor."

Salé jumps in. "We are interested in money, but it's not the most important thing. Our aim is to retire when we're 35 or 40."

Then she sighs and adds, "I just don't understand it. Why is everyone so into money? They miss out on the good things."

At my urging, Pelletier is happy to list what some of those things are: "The best things in life are free: family, friends, friendship and love." He reflects for a moment, then continues. "And the change of seasons makes me really happy. I just took my mountain bike into the woods for three hours. It was beautiful, the way it smelled. My senses were going a thousand miles an hour."

His message is this: "I want people to know that I don't see the world better today because I have it [money]. And I've been on both sides."

"Me too," echoes Salé, who was raised by a single mom. "Things were tight."

It takes a while but the famous duo finally convince me that, indeed, the best things in life are free: fresh air, friends ... and free Roots leather jackets, as many as they want.

Now why didn't I learn how to skate?

  Last update: May 6, 2009
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