Photo Courtesy of: ESPN the Magazine
Gus Kenworthy is a British-born American freestyle skier from Telluride, Colorado, who competes in slopestyle and the halfpipe and is one of 13 openly-queer athletes at this Winter Games.
The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea will feature a record breaking number of out and proud LGBTQ athletes.
According to Outsports, there are currently a total of 13 openly-queer contenders in the Games, up from seven at the 2014 Winter Olympic in Sochi (none, however, identify as transgender). This doesn’t mean that there aren’t more taking part (there are), but simply that they haven’t spoken about their sexuality in the media or to the public. The Summer Olympic Games, which is a much larger event, sported 56 out Olympians in Rio in 2016.
But why is anyone counting? Sport remains a predominately macho and heterocentric realm in which many LGBTQ competitors may feel afraid to come out. The idea is that the more we celebrate our openly queer athletes, the more normalised this becomes, so that one day their sexuality or gender expression won’t matter.
Notably, the South Korea event will be the first time that the Winter Games includes men in the openly LGBTQ contingent. North America takes the lead with three of the four men.
The US boasts Gus Kenworthy (slopestyle free skiing), probably the most visible of the LGBTQ athletes – thanks to high profile TV appearances and a campaign for a major shampoo brand. Kenworthy won a silver medal at the Sochi games but wasn’t out at the time. Kenworthy failed to medal this Olympics but in a Twitter post had no regrets. Understandably disappointed in not earning a medal, he did express joy in being able to compete openly as a gay man.
Team USA further includes Adam Rippon, who is said to be the first openly gay American male skater to compete in the Olympics. Canadian figure skater Eric Radford has competed at the Olympics before but, like Kenworthy, this is the first time doing so as an out gay man. The male team is rounded off by another figure skater, Jorik Hendrickx a two-time Belgian national champion. He came out as gay last month.
The majority of the women come from Europe, including Sweden’s two-time ice hockey Olympian Emilia Andersson Ramboldt, who married her wife in 2015. There’s also-married Austrian Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (ski jumping) who won a silver medal in Sochi and Cheryl Maas (Netherlands, snowboarding), who is raising two children with her wife.
Simona Meiler, a snowboarder from Switzerland, notably said that LGBTQ atheles can only give their all if they are not burdened by being in the closet and “can accept and express their sexuality”. Another snowboarder, Sarka Pancochova, will represent the Czech Republic.
Ireen Wüst, a speed skater from the Netherlands, has won a whopping eight medals (four golds, three silvers and one bronze) in past Olympic Games. Identifying as bisexual, she married her wife last year.
There are also two Australians on the list – Belle Brockhoff, a snowboarder, and Barbara Jezeršek, who competes in cross country skiing – and an American, Brittany Bowe, another speedskater.
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games began on February 9th in Pyeongchang, South Korea.