Thursday, 1 March 2018

A Look Back at the Winter Olympics

Today we look back at the Olympic Winter games of PyeongChang. From the second that Eric Radford put his skate onto the ice to the swoosh of ice as Sophie Vercruyssen’s bobsleigh came to a halt the PyeongChang Olympics featured several milestones. But first, let’s look at what occurred before the games began.

As with other Olympics a period of qualification and selection takes place. In some cases, such as ice hockey, this qualification process begin well before the previous games started. The 2018 qualification for them began in 2012 with the first table of world rankings by which ultimate qualification was chosen. With all sports there are many athletes who helped to win their nation’s place at the Olympics who never became an Olympian.

The total number of out lgbt athletes known to have competed in qualifications and trials for the 2018 Olympics was 22. Only 15 became Olympians (full list at the end). As we celebrate the achievements of the Olympians last month let’s also celebrate the out athletes who took part in official qualifications who were not selected for PyeongChang.

Letitia de Jong (Netherlands, speed skating)
Scott Dyer (USA, figure skating)
John Epping (Canada, curling)
John Fennell (USA, luge)
Timothy LeDuc (USA, pairs figure skating)
Javier Raya (Spain, figure skating)
Megan Wessenberg (USA, figure skating)

Of those Timothy LeDuc came the closest to making an Olympic debut by being selected as an alternate skater should one of the selected Olympians be unable to compete. John Fennell and Javier Raya both competed at the previous Sochi Olympics but neither were openly gay. This leads us to the first of the significant moments of the PyeongChang Olympics.

Even though openly female lesbian/bisexual athletes have been at the Winter Olympics since 1992, PyeongChang saw the first officially openly gay male Olympian. Not one, but four. If we need to be pedantic about it and state which of them can be listed as the exact first openly gay Olympian we can go by the date on which their Olympic selection was published. Here are those dates:

15th December 2017 – Jorik Hendrickx (Belgium, figure skating)
7th January 2018 – Adam Rippon (USA, figure skating)
15th January 2018 – Eric Radford (Canada, figure skating)
21st January 2018 – Gus Kenworthy (USA, freestyle skiing slopestyle).

The American media likes to claim Adam Rippon as the first openly gay male to be selected for the Olympics, citing Jorik Hendrickx’s interview of February 2018 as his “coming out”. However, Jorik said clearly he was openly gay long before he gave his interview. This raises the question of who decides who is openly gay – the athlete or the media. I’d go for the athlete every time.

Eric Radford was the first openly gay male athlete to actually compete. His first event was in the team figure skating contest on 8th February, the day before the opening ceremony. On 12th February he became the first openly gay man to win a gold medal when his team became champions. (British figure skater John Curry was outed during the 1976 Olympics after he competed. However, John Curry is the first male openly gay reigning champion until the next Olympics.)

Skating has always had a reputation of having a large proportion of gay men and this is illustrated in the shape of the coaches and choreographers at PyeongChang. In fact, several openly gay coaches have attended the Winter Olympics in various sports going back to Vancouver 2010, if not earlier.

In PyeongChang there were 3 openly gay figure skating coaches and 7 choreographers (8 if you include Desmond Leong-Delmore, a choreographer friend of Adam Rippon who sat with him during the judges scoring). Not all of the other choreographers were in PyeongChang in person (Scott Brown and Drew Meekins certainly were).

There have been several openly lesbian/bisexual Olympic champions in the past. The greatest of these is Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst. As in Sochi 2014 Ireen was the first lgbt medal winner of the games. She won her 5th gold medal in PyeongChang and became the most medalled lgbt Olympian and the most medalled Dutch Olympian (summer or winter) in history. By winning 3 medals in PyeongChang Ireen jumped up to 4th position in the all-time medal table of Olympians with a career total of 11.

At last we come to the full list of out athletes at PyeongChang and their results. As well as the top three who win medals those who finished in 1st to 8th place won Olympic diplomas. All Olympians receive participation medallions and certificates, so no-one goes home emptyhanded. 

Brittany Bowe
USA, speedskating
Women’s team pursuit
Women’s 1,000 metres
Women’s 500 metres
Women’s 1,500 metres
Belle Brockhoff
Australia, snowboard
Women’s snowboard cross
Jorik Hendrickx
Belgium, figure skating
Men’s singles
Daniela Iraschko-Stolz
Austria, downhill skiing
Women’s normal downhill
Barbara Jezersek
Australia, skiing
Women’s team sprint freestyle
Women’s 10 km freestyle
Women’s skiathlon
Gus Kenworthy
USA, freestyle skiing
Men’s freestyle slopestyle
Cheryl Maas
Netherlands, snowboard
Women’s snowboard big air
Women’s snowboard slopestyle
Simona Meiler
Switzerland, snowboard
Women’s snowboard cross
Kim Melyemans
Belgium, skeleton bobsleigh
Women’s skeleton
Šárka Pančochová
Czech Republic, snowboard
Women’s snowboard slopestyle
Women’s snowboard big air
Eric Radford
Canada, figure skating
Team figure skating
Pairs figure skating
Emilia Anderssen Ramboldt
Sweden, ice hockey
Women’s ice hockey
Adam Rippon
USA, figure skating
Team figure skating
Men’s single
Sophia Vercruyssen
Belgium, bobsleigh
Two-women bobsleigh
Ireen Wüst
Netherlands, speed skating
Women’s 1,500 metres
Women’s 3,000 metres
Women’s team pursuit
Women’s 1,000 metres

Tomorrow we see how these results effect the full summer and winter medal table, and look at some of the lgbt issues that surfaced during PyeongChang 2018.

No comments:

Post a Comment