The 2014 Sochi Games in Russia brought the issue of homosexuality to the forefront of the international event, with some athletes making the decision to remain in the closet in lieu of safety concerns. With 88 nations represented and over 2,900 competitors, only seven athletes were openly gay, and all of them were women.
Fast forward to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games in South Korea and there are 11 out-and-proud athletes vying for medals at the prestigious sporting competition, this time in a country that is welcomes gay people, and are even constructing a Pride House in the Olympic Village for athletes. Despite some countries bristling at the notion of openly gay athletes competing, these men and women are either in contention for or already confirmed to vie for gold medals at the winter Olympic games on both a personal mission and a monumental stand for equality.
Gus Kenworthy (United States)
He may have entered the 2014 Games as an unknown commodity but freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy’s stock has definitely risen considerably as he prepares for his second Olympics as a competitor for the U.S. Olympic team. Since coming out, the LGBT community has welcomed him with open arms and endorsement deals from some of the biggest companies in the world are hoping to make him a household name in 5,4,3,2…
John Fennell (Canada)
He may have remained in the closet for the Sochi Games, but this time around, Canadian men’s single luge athlete John Fennell is currently training feverishly to represent his country and the LGBT community in PyeongChang as an out and proud man.
Adam Rippon (United States)
He is making history at this year’s Winter Olympics as the first openly gay man to compete for the USA, going one step further than retired American figure skater Johnny Weir. Should he win a medal, it will be a triumph for the gay community and a testament to triumph over adversity.
Ireen Wüst (The Netherlands)
She already has collected eight medals at the Olympics – four of which are gold – but Ireen Wüst is a long-track speed skater that is looking to add more medals to her collection in PyeongChang for her home country of The Netherlands. As the most decorated athlete at the Sochi Games, all eyes will be on her to come through yet again.
Eric Radford (Canada)
As a Canadian figure skater, Radford has had to contend with the conservative aura of the figure skating world for years, coming out as a gay man in December 2014 right after the 2014 Sochi Winter Games with his skating partner Meagan Duhamel, where they earned the silver medal. Now that he has qualified for the upcoming PyeongChang Games, he will be competing against American Adam Rippon for the gold.
Belle Brockhoff (Australia)
She may have suffered a serious knee injury recently, but snowboard cross athlete Belle Brockhoff is determined to make this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, seeking to improve upon her 8th place finish at her debut at the Sochi Games in Russia in 2014.
Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (Austria)
She made history in 2014 as the first openly gay athlete at the Sochi Games in the debut of the women’s ski jump, winning the silver medal. Will the Austrian grab the gold in PyeongChang? All eyes will be on her.
Cheryl Maas (The Netherlands)
The Dutch snowboarder openly criticized the International Olympic Committee at the Sochi Games for its stance against the LGBT community, and is looking to improve upon her performance at the 2006 Torino Olympics, where she placed 11th in the halfpipe. Her heroism is set to make her a vocal supporter of gay rights for all athletes internationally.
Barbara Jezersek (Australia)
Representing Australia, Jezersek and her cross country skiing partner Jessica Yeaton finished 10th at the first Team Sprint final and are looking to improve upon that standing in PyeongChang, where they hope to place inside the top 20.
Luis Fenero (Spain)
Spanish ice dancer Luis Fenero, along with his partner Celia Robledo, have been announced as part of their country’s Olympic team, where they hope to grab a medal for their country.
With the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, the LGBT community is poised to make history in ways that will forever change the perception of the international event.