On Wednesday, February 5, openly lesbian former Olympian Billie Jean King announced that she was stepping down from her position as a part of the United States delegation for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games; the tennis icon told the press that her absence is due to her mother’s illness.
“With my mother in failing health, I will not be able to join the U.S. Presidential Delegation at this week’s opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics,” King, 70, said in a statement. “It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother at this difficult time. I want to thank President Obama for including me in this historic mission, and I look forward to supporting our athletes as they compete in Sochi.”
As of Wednesday morning, the White House gave an updated list of delegates that replaces King with Caitlin Cahow, a lesbian former Olympian hockey player; Cahow was originally selected to appear for the closing ceremonies. Also serving on the delegation is openly gay Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano.
Prior to her resignation from the delegation team, King said during an interview with USA TODAY Sports that she believed her presence at the Sochi Winter Games might give hope to the country’s LGBT citizens.
“I want to be helpful, encouraging and try to tell them that they are not alone,” said King.
A statement from the White House stated that President Obama “extended his thoughts and prayers to Ms. King and her family in this difficult time.”