A record number of LGBTQ athletes are competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, with at least 36 out athletes participating, including one non-binary athlete. 

Outsports reports that this doubles the number who participated in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, and is more than five times more than participated in Sochi, Russia in the 2014 Winter Games.

The athletes are spread among nine Olympic events, with the majority of those athletes participating in ice hockey and figure skating. 

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The record number of out athletes in Beijing follows on the heels of the historic Tokyo Summer Games where 185 out LGBTQ athletes competed; a total which was more than all of the previous summer games combined.

Out Women Athletes Outnumber Male Athletes

Outsports founder Cyd Ziegler said, “That number reflects where we at OutSports believe sports is today: Sports in Western society is widely accepting of LGBTQ people, and these athletes at the most important moment in their entire careers agree.”

Out women athletes continue to outnumber out male athletes with 11 out men making the trip to Beijing, one-third of the total number of out athletes competing.

Canada has sent 10 out athletes to Beijing, with the women’s ice hockey team accounting for seven of those athletes. The United States is represented by six out athletes and Great Britain with four. Other nations sending out athletes include Sweden (three), Austria (two), France (two) and the Czech Republic (two).

Australian Snowboarder Belle Brockhoff Finishes Fourth

 

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Snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, 29, is representing Australia in her third trip to the Olympics. Brockhoff finished fourth in the snowboard cross final on Wednesday. She had finished in second place in the semi-finals, the quarter-finals, and 1/8 final heats.

“All I can say is, ‘Oh well’ rather than, ‘What if’,” Brockhoff told Channel 7

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“I thought I’d be OK. I thought I wasn’t going to cry, but I’m definitely crying,” a tearful Brockhoff said, in an emotional post-race interview.

“I had a really bad training day yesterday, I couldn’t get a lap down. Had a crash, hit my head. My knee’s been a lot of issues these past few days. I had a s*** time trial. I was having a bit of a breakdown in front of my family. But there’s a lot of fight in me.”

“I have to cry like a b**** now and then get cracking on that next one,” Brockhoff said.

Brockhoff is scheduled to compete in mixed team snowboard cross with Jarryd Hughes, an event making its Olympic debut in Beijing.

Speedskater Ireen Wüst Makes Olympic History

Dutch speedskater Ireen Wüst won her sixth Winter Olympics gold medal in Monday’s Women’s 1500m final. This makes Wüst the first athlete to win gold in individual events at five different Olympic Games (Summer or Winter), and makes her the most successful LGBTQ athlete in Olympics history. 

“This is just amazing. There’s a lot of different emotions going through my mind right now. I mean, it’s just bizarre that I was able to pull it off once again… I just have no words for it.” 

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“There’s something magical that gets to me when it comes down to the Games. There’s something at the Games that brings out the best in me,” said Wüst following her win.

Timothy LeDuc first Non-Binary Athlete in Winter Olympics

Figure skater Timothy LeDuc

Figure skater Timothy LeDuc, representing the United States, is the first non-binary athlete to make it to the Winter Olympics. They are paired with Ashley Can-Gribble in pairs figure skating.

Canadian pairs figure skater Eric Radford became the first out LGBTQ athlete to earn a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang. Radford is competing again in Beijing. 

Radford told The Globe and Mail in 2018 “I have had some really touching messages from people who are still in the closet, and they said that I’ve really inspired them, and helped them to try to accept themselves more … that’s incredible.”

Adam Rippon, who became the first out American athlete to win a medal at the Winter Olympics in 2018 told Olympics.com in a recent interview, “What brings me so much joy is to think of the representation of the queer community now versus just four years ago.”

“Growing up, I could never imagine seeing so many out and proud queer figure skaters. I think it’s so incredible, and I’m so proud of the athletes who are competing in Beijing – as themselves,” Rippon said.

Rippon is in Beijing as a coach to US figure skater Mariah Bell.

LGBTQ Athletes Feel The Thrill of Competing Openly 

Other notable out skaters in Beijing include French singles skater Kevin Aymoz, American Jason Brown, Canadian ice dancer Paul Poirier, Italian pairs skater Filippo Ambrosini, Armenian ice dancer Simon Proulx Senecal and British ice dancer Lewis Gibson.

“It’s incredible,” said Jason Brown of the record representation of LGBTQ athletes in Beijing. “I think it’s amazing. [The] visibility is just growing for other people to come [out]… I’m so proud to be a part of that.”

Lewis Gibson said, “It’s honestly a privilege to feel part of a community, and one that is pushing boundaries like no other.”

“Every four years the numbers skyrocket up and up, and it’s so great to see and so great to be a part of. The Olympics are a legacy and being part of this group of people is that as well,” Gibson said.

Chinese LGBTQI Community Under Threat

The record representation of out athletes in Beijing comes at a pivotal time for the LGBTQ community in China who have been continually targeted by the Chinese government, facing increased restrictions on personal freedom. 

While homosexuality is not illegal under Chinese law;  as reported by CNN, LGBTQ people in China face continued government harassment and discrimination.

WeChat, a Chinese messaging app closed a dozen LGBTQ accounts in July 2021, Shanghai Pride was cancelled in 2020, and Chinese censors have banned any depiction of “abnormal sexual behaviors,” which includes gay relationships, on television and online.

Simona Mieler, a former pro snowboarder, who competed at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Sochi, told CNN Sport that the crackdown on the LGBTQ community by the Chinese government runs counter to the core values of the Olympic Games.

“The Charter is supposed to uphold the rights of all and to discourage discrimination. But when the host nations of the Games violate human rights — whether in their treatment of LGBTQ+ people or other minorities — that goes against everything that the Charter stands for.” 

The “IOC may have rules in place designed to protect the rights of marginalized people, such as the Charter,” Meiler said. “But I rarely see the IOC actually enforce its own rules.”

 

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