Metro Weekly

Winter Olympics: Record number of out LGBTQ athletes set to compete

The number of out LGBTQ athletes at the Winter Olympics has doubled compared with the 2018 Games.

Winter Olympics, Olympic Games
The Winter Olympics – Photo by Pixabay

The Winter Olympics have officially begun and a record number of out LGBTQ athletes are expected to compete in this year’s games.

Following on from a record showing for Team LGBTQ at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo — where 183 out athletes competed and 11 secured gold medals — at least 35 LGBTQ athletes will compete openly in Beijing.

While that’s a sharp drop, it represents a significant increase over the 2018 Winter Olympics, where only 15 out LGBTQ athletes competed.

Outsports reports that the athletes hail from 14 countries and will compete in nine different sports, including ice hockey, figure skating, skiing, and snowboarding.

They include veteran LGBTQ competitors like Canadian figure skater Eric Radford, the first out gay man to win a gold Winter Olympics medal, bisexual Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst, the most decorated LGBTQ Olympian of all time, and gay skier Gus Kenworthy, who will be competing for Great Britain after switching from Team USA (Kenworthy holds dual citizenship).

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The Beijing Winter Games will also feature a number of freshly out LGBTQ athletes, including Brazilian skeleton athlete Nicole Silveira and Team USA figure skater Timothy LeDuc, who will be the first out nonbinary athlete at the Winter Olympics.

Team USA’s Brittany Bowe, a world record-holding speed skater, holds the honor of being the only out LGBTQ athlete to be chosen as a flag bearer for the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

Bowe, the only openly LGBTQ woman athlete on Team USA, will compete in her third Olympic games in Beijing. She has already made waves at the games even before stepping onto the ice, after she sacrificed her spot in one of three events she qualified for — the 500-meter race — so that fellow Team USA athlete Erin Jackson could secure a place at the Winter Games.

“It’s just the spirit of the Olympics and being a great teammate,” she told NBCSports.com. “And yes, it’s bigger than just me. It’s Team USA. Erin has a shot to bring home a medal, hopefully, a gold medal, and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity.”

Also Read: Tom Daley wants Olympics to ban countries with death penalty for gay people

Team LGBTQ has already scored at least one victory, after Britain’s Bruce Mouat and his partner Jennifer Dodds defeated Sweden in their opening curling duo match. Mouat, who came out as gay in 2013, and is the only out LGBTQ curling athlete at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The Human Rights Campaign has noted that, among Team LGBTQ, at least four out athletes hail from countries where it is illegal for them to get married, including Pancochova, Italian figure skater Filippo Ambrosini, and Armenian ice dancer Simon Proulx Sénécal.

“The Olympic Games are a celebration of country and sport. With LGBTQ+ representation in the Olympics on the rise, we celebrate the courage and strength of LGBTQ+ athletes who are able to compete on the world stage,” HRC said in a blog post.

“Coming out as LGBTQ+ in sports can be challenging, especially in countries where openly identifying as LGBTQ+ can be life-threatening.”

The full list of out LGBTQ athletes at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games can be viewed here.

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