By Ryan Collett
One of the world’s biggest spotlights will turn on and turn towards the Summer Olympics that begin next week in London. While the games are largely a celebration of competition and athleticism, they’re also a microcosm of sorts for the ethics surrounding the world of professional sports.
Homosexuality in sports remains a large taboo throughout the world – many of the nations participating in this year’s Olympics don’t even allow homosexuality. Nonetheless, a few individuals are out and open and spread positive awareness with their Olympic bids.
A few of the Olympians to root for:
Matt Mitcham – Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, Mitcham will be competing on the Australian diving team for a second time after having won a gold medal in the Beijing summer Olympics in the 10 meter platform dive. In Beijing, Mitcham received the highest single-dive score in the entire history of the Olympics and was the first Australian to win a gold medal in diving since 1924. He came out in 2008 before the Beijing games to Australian newspapers and has since been featured on the cover of The Advocate’s international magazine as well as other LGBT publications.
Megan Rapinoe – From California, United States, Rapinoe makes her Olympic debut in women’s soccer. She was also selected to play in the FIFA Women’s World Cup last year. Rapinoe recently came out publicly to Out Magazine this month, though she’s been in a long-term relationship with another professional soccer player, Sarah Walsh from Australia.
Pia Sundhage – Though originally from Sweden, Sundhage is this year’s head coach of the United States women’s soccer team. Sundhage came out publicly as a lesbian in 2010. She has a storied career in soccer having played professionally for Sweden for 18 years and working as a manager for teams in the United States and China.
Natalie Cook – Aside from being the only openly gay beach volleyball player on the Australian team, she’s also one of the oldest at the age of 37. At the London Olympics, Cook will be the first Australian woman to have competed in five summer Olympic games. Cook also married her long-time partner, Sarah Maxwell, in 2008.
Marilyn Agliotti – The South African native will make her second trip to the Olympics playing field hockey for The Netherlands after bringing home gold from Beijing. Agliotti is married and has participated in LGBT advocacy campaigns throughout the Netherlands.
Seimone Augustus – A star player in the WNBA, Augustus currently plays professionally for the Minnesota Lynx and the Spartak Moscow team in Russia. She’ll represent the United States in women’s basketball in London for her second Olympic run. Also a gold medalist from the Beijing Olympics, Augusts came out in an article in The Advocate this year. Augustus is engaged to her girlfriend LaTaya Varner.