Friday, 7 February 2014

Team LGB at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

Some of my LGBT friends have been calling for a boycott of the Games that got underway yesterday with some qualification competitions, but I have said we should always let the athletes go. The main reason is that without the athletes from accepting nations being there the Russia media would not tell the truth to their own nationals about why such nations were absent.

Brack Obama made a point of selected three LGB athletes to the delegation that is going to the the 2014 Games while he is staying away. But there are a small number of active athletes who will be taking part and some of them have come out recently as a show of defiance to the anti-propaganda laws in Russia.

So who are the out LGB athletes who are going to Sochi.

Ireen Wüst - Netherlands

The Dutch speed skater is going to her third Winter Olympics looking to add to the two golds and bronze she won in Turin and Vancouver. Yes, this bisexual sports woman, who does not fit Russia's idea of "traditional sexual relations", has reached the top of her sport. She won gold in the 3,000m in 2006 in Turin in the long track version of the sport, adding the bronze that year in the 1,500m. That year at a mere 19 she became her nation's youngest ever Winter Olympic Champion. Last time she took the gold in the 1,500m in Vancouver.

She will be taking part in five events in Sochi, the women's 1,000m, 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m and as part of the Dutch team in the women's pursuit. In October of 2009 a Dutch magazine she casually stated that she had been in a relationship with her girlfriend since May of that year.

Sanne van Kerkhof - Netherlands

Still with the Dutch there is another speed skating veteren. Although Sanne does her skating on the short track. She just missed out on a medal in Vancouver in 2010 when the women's 3,000m pursuit team came in 4th for the Dutch ladies.

She also happened to be the girlfriend that Wüst was referring to before those Games in Vancouver. They have since split up but are both looking forward to their second Games as out athletes.

She will again be taking part in the women's pursuit looking to step unto the podium.

Cheryl Maas - Netherlands

The Dutch provide yet another of our openly out athletes and this time we head off the ice and unto snow. Cherly missed out on the 2010 Games, but had been in the 2006 half pipe competition.

After she qualified once again she was critical of the IOC offering the Game to a nation with a Human Rights record such as Russia's and when asked about whether she would boycott the Games. She said:

"If you do that, everyone must participate, it is because human rights. This goes beyond homosexuality. If only gay people engage in a boycott, it does not help."

She is married to Norwegian former Olympic snowboarder Stine Brun Kjeldaas who won the silver medal in the women's half pipe at the 1998 Games and was part of the BBC commentary team in 2010.

Barbara Jezeršek - Slovenia

Finally we get to an athlete from a nation other than the Netherlands and we add another sport to the pantheon.
Slovenia's cross county skier Barbara Jezeršek is probably not expected to feature in the medals unlike those Dutch competitors. Her best individual performance having been 34th while as part of a Slovenian relay team she has been 9th.

She has been out since 2008 and will be the only out athlete from the former Eastern Bloc countries in Sochi.

Next we have the two athletes who came out publicly as a result of the new law in Russia.

Anastasia Bucsis - Canada

The 24 year old skater made her Olympic debut at her home Games in Vancouver four years ago, although she wasn't part of the Canadian gold rush.

She took part in the women's 500m long track speed skating as her only event four years ago recording the 34th best time. The following year she game out to her friends and family but it was last year at Calgary Pride that she made a public stance about her sexuality.  She said:
"I could never promote that message of concealing who you are with all of this going on in Russia. I’m kind of happy that I did it on my own terms."
Again she will just be taking part in the  shortest and fastest of the disciples in the long track speed skating as her only event.

Belle Brockhoff - Australia

The youngest of the LGB athletes taking part in Sochi 2014 will be the Australian snowboard cross athlete. Like Bucsis she came out publicly last summer as a result of the new law being introduced in Russia.

Speaking at the time the twenty year old said:
"I have a feeling that I would have to kinda go back into the closet a little bit because I don't want to risk my, like, you know, safety, being arrested or deported. I want to be able to compete and live my dream and become an Olympian. That's always what I've wanted to do. ... I honestly find it a little bit disrespectul and a little bit sad not only to me but to other athletes and it's my dream, and I want to be able to be who I am, I want to be proud of who I am and be proud of all the work I've done to get into the Olympics and not have to deal with this kind of law." 
However, speaking last month she said:

"The Australian Olympic Committee has been really supportive and they want me to be safe. They don't recommend me waving a [rainbow] flag around which I won't do.

"The most I'll do is hold up six fingers to represent Principle Six. Possibly I'll do it on camera here or there, and maybe after the heats of my event." 

I know Belle won't be allowed to wear her Principle 6 T-Shirt anywhere near the Games, however, I along with many other will be wearing mine tonight while I watch the Opening Ceremony and I'll be watching out on Sunday 16th to see if she does use six fingers.

From the list there are sadly no openly gay men at the Sochi Games as sadly New Zealand Short-Track Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup who missed out by one spot on qualifying. However, last November while he was competing in Russia he did meet some LGBT activists secretly.

About that meeting he said:

"It was emotional to hear what they were going through. They were afraid on so many levels. The law is very discriminative and oppressive and it's leading to greater violence against LGBT people. At the weekend two gunmen opened fire at a gay club in Moscow and such acts are not uncommon. For many the only choice is to go undergound."
There are also a number of openly LGBT broadcasters, commentators and analysts attending these Games from our own Clare Balding to self-confessed Russia-phile and former USA Ice Skater Johnny Weir.

No comments:

Post a Comment