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It all worked out..for James Murphy and Teodora Sutra

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Lean On Me: Latvian model Teodora Sutra says that James Murphy was a huge support to her when her little sister Gabriela died tragically last September. Photo: Dave Conachy

Lean On Me: Latvian model Teodora Sutra says that James Murphy was a huge support to her when her little sister Gabriela died tragically last September. Photo: Dave Conachy

Lean On Me: Latvian model Teodora Sutra says that James Murphy was a huge support to her when her little sister Gabriela died tragically last September. Photo: Dave Conachy

When beautiful Latvian model, Teodora Sutra, met fitness trainer, James Murphy, she was working at the uber-cool clothing store, Hollister. James was one of the hot, topless guys employed at the front of the store to entice the female customers inside.

"I thought he was cute but I don't usually go for really good-looking guys." she says. "Plus I always thought those guys were so vain, and I'm not into that. Then we got chatting at a party, and James was also funny and talkative.

"Teo is totally different to the girls I usually go for," says James. "I like really sporty girls or curvier, small girls, whereas she is tall and skinny, but I soon realised that there was something there. She's a really nice, kind person, crazy yet funny, and is always positive and happy. She never has a bad thing to say about anyone, whereas a lot of good-looking girls can be quite bitchy."

That was almost three years ago, and Teo and James moved in together after four months. It was a big test, they admit, and their friends said they would either kill each other or get on fabulously. Thankfully, it was the latter.

James, 29, grew up in Ratoath, Co. Meath, in the middle of Marian and Gerry's three children. He played underage Gaelic and hurling for Meath, and completed a personal training and gym management course after school.

After working at a gym for four years, James switched to insurance for seven years, while doing personal training on the side. He didn't feel suited to insurance, so when redundancies were offered, he jumped and decided to open his gym, Zest Fitness, on Upper Baggot Street. A brave move, given the economic downturn, but it's going great and he's opening another studio in town soon (see www.zestfitness.ie.)

"I wasn't worried as I'm very self-confident, but not in an arrogant way," he says. "Once I put my mind to something, nothing will stop me from doing it. A lot of people use the recession as an excuse for being lazy or not marketing themselves properly, but I think you can always make money, no matter what. You just have to get out and do it."

Teodora, 23, was born in Riga, Latvia. After her parents' marriage ended, she moved here, aged eight, with her mum Zane and three siblings, settling in Wexford. She adapted really quickly to Irish life, but loves going home to Latvia to visit her dad Agris, sister and grandparents.

While Teo never planned to model, she won the Irish heat of the Ford Supermodel of the World competition aged 14. "I was gangly and awkward," she recalls. "Mum and I were in Kilkenny and the competition was on, so we just popped by. I started modelling after that, and it was scary and a bit of a shock. I was intimidated by all the girls at first because I had seen them on TV, but now I'm working with them, so it's crazy. I was very nervous about modelling for a long time, and only moved to Dublin about three-and-a-half years ago to do it full-time."

Teo and her family were devastated when her beloved nine-year-old sister Gabriela died tragically in a house fire last September, along with her babysitter. Born in Ireland, Gabriela was her mum's child from another relationship. James was hugely supportive, both emotionally and practically, through this terrible time, and Teo says it would have been even tougher going through it without him.

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"There is nothing that will challenge you more than when something like that happens," says James. "Teo will never recover or go back to the way she was before Gabby died. When someone that young dies, you can't help but think about it every day, and all I can do is to try to understand and be there for her."

Teo admires James' confidence and determination, and his approach with clients, as he is a friendly, but tough, trainer. He works long hours, a necessity in building up a business, and comes home late in the evening.

"Teo would have food ready and she does my washing, which means a lot because I know many girls wouldn't do it," he says. "I have never asked her to do it and wouldn't expect it, but she does it to support me because she understands that I'm working towards a bigger goal. Even after nearly three years together, I still smile and become happy when she's around, and every time I see her my heart beats a little bit faster. I look forward to going home every night because she's there."

Teo says that while James hates it when she tells him to work less, he makes an effort when he comes home to make up for the fact that he isn't available as much as she'd like. Fitness is a common bond, and the pair are currently in training for the Dublin Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, which has live music every mile and DJs setting the tempo for its fun course. Teo is looking forward to it, although she isn't normally a runner.

"Doing the marathon is such a challenge, and now I have something to look forward to and keep me focused," she says. "I wasn't fit as a child and actually have mild spina bifida, so my back and hips would hurt the day after a workout. It doesn't really affect modelling, although it can get sore at times. I have been to a physio to strengthen my core, and James helps me with what I should and shouldn't do, and although we can work out alongside each other, we kill each other when he trains me."

While it's too early to be talking marriage, and they are concentrating on building their careers, the pair see a future together. It drives James mad that Teo thinks she's relatively average, while he believes she's one of the best models in the country, "I tell her all the time that she's beautiful," he says. "She should model internationally and do big things worldwide, but she doesn't realise she has an amazing look. When I see her at home, she is being goofy or in her pyjamas, but when she's working, she's up there with the very best."

Register for the Dublin Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on 4th August 2014 on www.rocknrolldublin.com


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