When TVNZ sports reporter Kimberlee Downs first met her Newshub equivalent Ollie Ritchie at a Black Caps training session at Christchurch's Hagley Oval in 2016, she wasn't exactly bowled over.
"My first impression was that she really cared about her job because she completely ignored me," Ollie recalls, grinning. "She was so focused on what she was doing, it was like, 'Ugh, junior reporter, get out of my way!' I got the message loud and clear. She loves it when I remind her of that!"
Feigning outrage, Kim insists, "It was not a snub! I was just concentrating on my work and prepping for interviews, but I wasn't rude the whole time – we had a yarn around the back of the nets and he seemed like a nice guy. I just didn't think I'd ever see him again!"
Fast-forward five years and the pair are still career rivals, reporting on sports for their competing networks, but they're also completely loved-up and living together, having just moved into their first home together on Auckland's North Shore.
People often ask the pair how they manage to separate business from pleasure, but New Plymouth-born Kim insists: "We were really upfront with everyone at work who needed to know and nobody's ever expressed any concern. Our respective bosses are well aware of how seriously we take our careers and neither of us would do anything to jeopardise our own jobs or each other's."
Currently focused on TVNZ's Prada and America's Cup coverage, Kim, 30, makes an unintentional nautical pun when she adds: "It's been pretty smooth sailing so far."
Laughing, former footy player Ollie agrees it's a common question, but he adds: "It's completely normal for me. My mum Joss was a journalist for 3 News way back in the 90s and my dad was a cameraman for One News, so it's how I grew up. It's pretty weird the way it's worked out, eh? I've never realised how much I'm following in their footsteps until now I've said it out loud. It's ridiculous!"
With Ollie the resident rugby reporter at Three, his and Kim's paths can cross at the occasional All Blacks game, with the Christchurch bloke, 27, explaining, "When that happens, we just go about our jobs normally and have a laugh about it later. The only time it was an issue was when we were in lockdown and doing interviews on the same Zoom call. One time, Kim asked a question and due to a technical lag, I ended up speaking over her. I was on dinner duties for the next week!"
After that inauspicious first meeting at the Canterbury cricket ground, Kim and Ollie were reunited at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Ollie says: "She didn't ignore me, which was a nice change!"
Giving her boyfriend a playful nudge, Kim – who was then based in Sydney as TVNZ's Australian correspondent – continues: "Well, he laid the groundwork by sliding into my DMs on Twitter a couple of months prior. He'd seen an interview I did with the singer Sam Smith, which he said he really liked. That was very sweet, so we caught up in person, and had a yarn and a few drinks, but nothing major developed beyond me thinking he was really nice."
However, the pair kept in touch and as months went by, their messages and texts turned into phone calls and FaceTime chats, and when Kim returned briefly to Auckland to host the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens coverage, she decided to pop down to Wellington, where Ollie was living at the time, for a quick visit.
She remembers: "I thought I might as well see if what we had in our texts and calls was there in real life. I was meant to be down there for one day, but I ended up staying for five. We had a phenomenal time and that really was the start of the romance."
Nodding, Ollie adds: "We got on like a house on fire, which is all you can ask. We had brunch in Maranui, which turned into a whole day and a big dinner out there, and we made a trip to Martinborough. It was technically a five-day date.
"I just loved how passionate she was about what she does and the people she cares about. We talked about sport a lot, but we talked about everything and it was pretty clear we wanted to continue it."
The long-distance relationship was challenging for them both, but with regular trips across the Tasman and Kim's overseas assignment due to end in seven months, she admits: "There were more ups than downs. In hindsight, it was probably really beneficial for us because we were forced to communicate constantly. It had its average moments, but because there was a fixed end date, we knew I was coming home and we could give this a real crack."
As luck would have it, Ollie was transferred to Newshub's Auckland office just before Kim relocated to the City of Sails in March 2019. He flew to Sydney to help with the move and arranged for Air New Zealand staff to make Kim's return to Aotearoa extra-special.
Blushing, she recalls: "We were sat at the back of the plane, but the flight attendants served us a glass of champagne each, then brought over a parcel of airline lollies with a card signed by all the staff that said, 'Congratulations on your long-distance ending. So excited for you guys!' It was very, very cute."
Kim moved into a flat just 15 minutes down the road from Ollie's place. She says: "It was a big relief finally being in the same country. I wasn't nervous, but I was interested to see how we'd operate in each other's spaces as we're both fairly independent people. I did wonder whether the fairytale would change once reality set in."
But when Ollie was forced to move out of his flat just three months later, they both agreed it felt right to move in together. Kim says: "It was the most natural, straight-forward thing. We didn't even question it."
The pair had both been set to report on the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year, before they were postponed due to the pandemic, which was "gutting", says Ollie. "It felt inevitable and it was the right decision, but we were devastated for the athletes as they'd been working their butts off for the past four years."
Instead, he and Kim spent much of 2020 in their rented apartment, which made them realise how keen they were to get their own home together. After six frustrating months of attending open homes and auctions, the couple are now overjoyed to be the owners of a cosy 1965 brick veneer two-bedroom house in Northcote.
"It was a demoralising process, but to finally be in here feels perfect," tells Kim. "We've been here less than a week and already had people over every night. We just love it. I'll be in the middle of a conversation about something completely different and suddenly come out with, 'I love our house!'"
As for the future, Kim struggles to think beyond the America's Cup, saying: "The level of interest from New Zealanders has been even higher than we expected, which has obviously been helped by some very dramatic moments out on the water, so it's been a fun but very busy summer. The house was a big deal and now there's a fair bit of sport going on. We're very work-driven!"
Asked if they ever get envious of each other's exclusive sporting scoops, Kim insists: "Not jealous – more proud. In any relationship, you want your partner to succeed and I know when he's worked hard on something, so fair play to him. I'll see his story and I'll be like, 'That's my boyfriend!'"
Laughing, Ollie jokes: "I might swear under my breath, but I'll congratulate her on a great job. I've got to hold on to this one – it's rare to find a woman who doesn't mind watching five days of test cricket that ends in a draw!"