Olympic gold medalist for the United States figure skating team, Brian Boitano, came out as gay only a day after he was appointed to represent the US in the delegation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
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Boitano will be joining the openly gay world champion tennis star Billie Jean King and lesbian hockey player Caitlin Cahow to represent the US in the delegation. President Barack Obama’s naming of these athletes to represent the US sends a clear and direct message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, one which celebrates diversity and challenges Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Boitano expressed that he was “honored” to be asked to represent his country in the delegation and chose to use this opportunity to make a public statement about his sexuality.
“When the president named the delegation and I read in the news what his message was, of tolerance and diversity, I thought, ‘I have to take this opportunity,’” Boitano said in an interview with Today. “I think the message is so strong and I’ve always wanted to represent my country as best I could. I knew I had to go past my comfort zone and reveal a private side of my life that I’ve never done before, because I felt that the message is so strong.”
With that said, Boitano expressed that the decision to send openly gay athletes to represent at the delegation, although a strong statement, should be approached carefully.
“I think that we have to be careful once we go over there. I think the statement has already been made by us being on the delegation—Billie Jean and Caitlin—and us standing together, united as gay people, showing that there is free speech and we are successful human beings and athletes and I think that that speaks measures,” Boitano said.
However, he reiterated that he believes that people should follow their instinct and do “what they feel is best for themselves.”
“I never thought that I would be coming out in this way and in a matter of ten hours, I decided to do it. That was what was right for me at this time. I tell everyone I think they should do what’s right for them,” Boitano said.
Although the figure skater’s choice to come out was inspired by his appointment, he expressed that he will continue to live a private life.
“The reaction has been fantastic and really supportive. I’ve always been a private person, I’ve kept the private side of my life special for family and friends who really knew me,” he said. “I’ve never been ashamed of who I was, I’ve always been open with them. […] I’m just a private guy. I’ve always chosen to keep my sexuality private. […] I intend to still be a private man, just a private gay man that people know now.”
The wake of Russia’s anti-gay laws has caused much controversy over the Olympics being held in Sochi. The leaders of multiple countries, such as American President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, and German President Joachim Gauck have all announced that they will not be attending the 2014 Winter Olympics.