Olympian Sydney McLaughlin and Andre Levrone Jr. say their love is ‘God-sent’

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and cover star of The Knot's Spring Mental Health issue shares her love story with former NFL player Levrone, Jr. for theGrio's 'Mighty Love' series.

This is the third installment in theGrio’s “Mighty Love” series running through February. Read our first couple’s story here.

What makes a winning couple? Some might say compatible interests. Others, a united faith. Still, others might assert that a couple’s compatibility lies in sharing similar drives and ambition. As athletes and fiancés, hurdler, sprinter, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Sydney McLaughlin and former NFL player-turned-project engineer Andre Levrone Jr. have all that and more.

The couple, whose love story is featured in The Knot magazine’s Spring Mental Health Issue—which McLaughlin also covers—agreed to be part of theGrio‘s “Mighty Love” series, where real-life couples are sharing their stories about Black love, partnership, and commitment.

Sydney McLaughlin Andre Levrone Jr. thegrio.com
Sydney McLaughlin and Andre Levrone Jr. (Credit: McLaughlin /Instagram)

While you might assume this dynamic duo met at the ESPYs or some equally glamorous-yet-athletic event, McLaughlin and Levrone’s romance began as many great ones do: through a friend. “We had a mutual friend who I went to high school with and he went to college with,” McLaughlin explained to The Knot, “but we didn’t interact until he slid into my DMs. We started off as friends. He asked me to do Bible study with him and introduced me to so many great people.”

With that kind of origin story, it’s no wonder McLaughlin characterizes their now fully-realized relationship as “God-sent,” while Levrone says it’s simply “glorious.” 

“Ever since I was very young, I always looked forward to the day when I would get married,” says 22-year-old McLaughlin in the issue. “I’ve made that such a big part of my life. I was constantly looking throughout my teenage years, throughout college, into early adulthood. A big part of meeting my fiancé had to do with the evolution of my faith, finding who I am in Christ, and submitting all my plans to God. Not long after I did that, I met Andre.”

Image: The Knot

26-year-old Levrone tells theGrio he is enchanted by McLaughlin’s resourcefulness. McLaughlin, in turn, says she’s not only found a soulmate but “the most passionate person I have ever met.”

“I would definitely say being athletes and being competitive brings us together for sure,” she says. “We’re able to relate on a lot of things that we both experienced throughout our sports, and also everything is a competition, whether it’s just walking up the stairs or bowling or whatever it is. So, it’s always definitely fun for sure.”

With much of their relationship evolving as McLaughlin trained for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics—where she won the 400-meter hurdles and beat her own world record—maintaining their connection long distance was also a hurdle the couple endeavored to get over.

Athletics - Olympics: Day 15
Sydney McLaughlin of Team United States poses with the gold medal for the Women’s 4 x 400m Relay Final at Olympic Stadium on Aug. 7, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

“I am most proud of us for choosing to remain together even when the logistics of dating long distance were challenging,” Levrone told theGrio — a sentiment McLaughlin echoes.

“I am most proud of how we have navigated these busy seasons of our lives to pursue love in all its fullness,” she says. “Our relationship has taught me that commitment and love are a sacrificial choice done for the benefit of another.

“We’re very respectful of each other’s schedules; it’s going to differ at times,” she continues. “I know that right now, my career is taking some precedent just in terms of the Olympics and the next coming years. But it’s just supporting each other throughout each season of life because there’s going to be times where I need a little bit more of the attention versus him and just respecting boundaries and encouraging and pushing each other through all of it.”

“I would say our relationship has taught me that in challenges and in triumphs, choosing the other person’s well-being is always worth it,” Levrone adds.

As a growing number of Olympians and other athletes have made clear in the past year, maintaining mental health amid fierce training and competition is a challenge in and of itself.

“Mental health, it’s a big thing in the world for everybody, for sure, especially coming out of COVID,” McLaughlin told theGrio. “Personally, I have been dealing with that just through having open communication with friends and family, people who love me, and a lot of that is also rooted in my faith and finding my identity in that. That brings a lot of clarity and peace of mind.”

“I discuss anything I’m feeling or thinking with Andre just by being open and understanding in our relationship there’s never judgment,” she adds. “It’s truly just love and concern and being able to have open honest dialogue where you can get things out there, then it can be addressed a lot easier than bottling it up inside.”

With the two now planning a wedding, McLaughlin is relieved to find it less daunting than she once assumed.

“For me, I had always felt wedding planning could be stressful,” she says. “I think it’s just remembering what the day is truly about, which is the union of two people and having a public ceremony for your marriage. It’s not about what everything looks like and how much it costs and who’s going to be watching. It’s truly about the meaning behind it and I think that’s what always brings me back to what’s most important, for sure.”

While the two are still in their 20s, the couple is excited to take the next step, with Andre especially excited to raise a family with McLaughlin. “I am looking forward to growing and maturing in all walks of life with one another,” she told theGrio.

“What inspires me most about Andre is how much he pushes me to be the best that I can be and who God calls me to be,” she adds. “Not a lot of people truly see the purity in everybody, but he does, and he’s constantly encouraging me in that, and not in my shortcomings.”

Read Sydney’s full cover story in The Knot, available now. This is the third installment in theGrio’s “Mighty Love” series; part 2 is available to read here.

Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in the fashion and entertainment industries, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).