“Team LGBTQ” Wins 32 Medals at Tokyo Olympics
As the torch goes out at Japan’s National Stadium in Meiji-Jingu Park, the end has come for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games – dubbed “the Rainbow Olympics” by some for the record number of LGBTQ competitors.
At least 182 athletes from around 30 countries attended the Tokyo Games, more than three times the number of those who participated in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, according to sports site LGBTQ Outsports.
At least 55 of those athletes, who competed in 35 different sports, won medals – five took gold in Team USA’s women’s basketball alone. In fact, if LGBTQ Olympians competed as their own country – affectionately labeled “Team LGBTQ” by Outsports – they would place 11th. in total medals (just behind France and ahead of Canada), with 32 team and individual medals: 11 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze.
“The presence and performance of these athletes has been a huge story at these Games,” Outsports founder Cyd Zeigler said in an email. “30% of all LGBTQ Olympians in Tokyo won a medal which means they show up, they also performed at a very high level.
The gold medalists were Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha for the 10 kilometer event; French martial artist Amandine Buchard for mixed team judo; Venezuelan track and field athlete Yulimar Rojas for the triple jump; Irish boxer Kellie Harrington; New Zealand rower Emma Twigg; Sue Bird, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi, members of the US women’s basketball team; American 3-on-3 basketball player Stefanie Dolson; Canadian women’s soccer team members Quinn, Kadeisha Buchanan, Erin McLeod, Kailen Sheridan and Stephanie Labbe; French handball players Amandine Leynaud and Alexandra Lacrabère; New Zealand rugby players Gayle Broughton, Ruby Tui, Kelly Brazier and Portia Woodman; and, of course, British diver Tom Daley, who ultimately won gold in synchronized diving at his fourth Games.
“I’m incredibly proud to say that I’m a gay man and also an Olympic champion,” Daley, 27, told reporters after he and his diving partner Matty Lee scored a winning score of 471.81 on the platform. 10 meter shape. “When I was younger I didn’t think I would ever succeed because of who I was. Being an Olympic champion now just shows that you can accomplish anything. ”
Daley’s victory – complemented by footage of him knitting a cozy comforter for his medal – was just one of many weird stories to come out of the Games.
After winning silver for the Philippines, featherweight boxer Nesthy Petecio told reporters, “I am proud to be part of the LGBTQ community,” according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer,
“Let’s go, let’s fight!” she added. “This fight is also for the LGBTQ community.”
The 2020 Summer Games also saw the first transgender Olympians to emerge, including Canada’s Quinn, who won a gold medal for her country’s women’s soccer team. Quinn, a midfielder who uses them / them pronouns, helped the team win gold after a clash with Sweden. Prior to becoming trans, Quinn won a bronze medal with Team Canada at the Rio 2016 Summer Games.
In an Instagram post on July 22, Quinn said they felt sad that “there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.”
After their championship game, Quinn wrote on Instagram: “Olympic Champions! Did this really just happen ?! ? “
There were also stories of activism off the playing field: American shot putter Raven Saunders risked having her silver medal revoked after raising her hands and crossing them in an ‘X’ gesture as she ‘she stood on the podium.
Saunders, a lesbian, said the symbol represented “the intersection of where all oppressed people meet,” according to the Associated Press. “My message is to keep fighting, to keep pushing, to keep finding value in yourself, to find value in everything you do.”
Saunders, who has spoken about his struggles with depression, advocates for both racial justice and mental health.
“I’m not just fighting for myself,” Saunders told NBC Olympics reporter Lewis Johnson after the ceremony. “I’m fighting for a lot more people. I want to greet the entire LGBTQ community. Anyone with mental health issues. All those who are black. I shout to everyone.
International Olympic Committee rules prohibit political statements or podium protests, but the organization has suspended its investigation into Saunders’ actions after announcing the death of his mother, Clarissa Saunders.
There were heartwarming stories, too: After winning a silver medal in the women’s quadruple, Polish rower Katarzyna Zillman publicly thanked her girlfriend.
“I called my girlfriend, Julia Walczak, a Canadian,” Zillman told Wirtualna Polska. “I showed him the medal. She confessed to me that for the past two weeks, she had been a big bundle of nerves. And today she was relaxed. For me it is also a day of great relief and relaxation, after five years, where every day I thought about the Olympic medal race and when we would win it.
Zillman has previously spoken to the media about being in a same-sex relationship, she told Sportowe Fakty, “but for some reason it hasn’t been released.”
State-sanctioned homophobia has increased in Poland in recent years, with dozens of cities passing ordinances declaring themselves “LGBT-free zones”. President Andrzej Duda won a second five-year term last year after calling LGBTQ ideology “more destructive” than communism and signing a “Family Charter” pledge to ban same-sex marriage, gay adoption rights and teaching LGBTQ issues in schools.
Zillman said she was happy to use the Games to advocate for the LGBTQ community.
“I know that this way I will help others,” she told Sportowe Fakty. “It was enough for me to introduce myself with a T-shirt with the mention ‘Sport against homophobia’ and I received a few messages from young girls practicing rowing. One of them opened up to me, described her difficult family situation to me, and told me that I had helped her a lot with my attitude. Such a message is enough to completely forget about thousands of hateful comments and disgusted faces. “
Days after Zillman’s press conference, Italian archer Lucilla Boari also stepped out after beating American Mackenzie Brown to take bronze, becoming the first Italian woman to win a medal in the sport.
In a live-streamed press conference, Boari received a message of support from Dutch archer Sanne de Laat, who did not attend the Games.
“It’s great, great, super amazing, and I’m super proud of you,” De Laat said, the Lawyer reported. “I can’t wait for you to be here so I can give yourself the biggest hug ever.” I love you so much. Good work.”
A tearful Boari told reporters: “This is Sanne, my girlfriend.”
While Italy, a predominantly Catholic nation, does not have the same anti-LGBTQ reputation as Poland, it is one of the most conservative countries in Western Europe. Same-sex marriage is not recognized and anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity are limited.
Joanna Hoffman, communications director for Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that advocates for inclusion in sport at all levels, said the historic numbers of Olympians and Paralympians “show how far we’ve come in terms of inclusiveness, visibility and representation “.
“This year’s Games pioneering athletes are groundbreaking not only for their own triumphs, but also for showing the world that LGBTQ + people belong to all aspects of life, especially sports,” Hoffman told NBC News.
But she stressed that creating an inclusive sports culture requires a holistic approach “and never leave the responsibility to an LGBTQ + athlete to come out.”
“Rather, it is up to coaches, leagues and governing bodies to meaningfully create and maintain safe spaces so that athletes feel they can be themselves genuine if they come forward.
CORRECTION (August 8, 2021, 8 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of an American Olympic basketball player. She is Diana Taurasi, not Dianna. The article also misrepresented the age of British swimmer Tom Daley. He’s 27, not 2.
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