On February 6, Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas became the first Olympic athlete to make a (silent) stand on LGBT rights during the actual Games.
At the kickoff for the 2014 Winter Olympics, during the inaugural slopestyle event, Maas flubbed her second run, meaning she will have to compete again on February 8’s semi-finals to qualify for the finals.
As she walked away to wait for the judges to announce her score, the news cameras focused on her, and she held up a gloved hand—decorated with a rainbow and a unicorn.
Maas, a lesbian herself, is married to Norwegian former snowboarder Stine Brun Kjeldaas; the two have a daughter together.
In October 2013, she told Dutch news site NUSport, “The Games are a great marketing tool for a country, [so]I think the IOC should be more critical when choosing a country. When freedoms are violated…the IOC can say we are not going to go there,” according to Google Translate.
UK snowboarding website Whitelines compared it to the black power salute of the 1968 Olympic Games, if not as obvious; they noted that it even “appeared to slip under the radar of the BBC commentators.”
Though the first political statement to be made actually at the games, it’s certain not to be the last; Maas’ timing may result in her appearance at the Olympics being remembered for almost everything but her event score.
It remains to be seen what shows of support for the LGBT community, and condemnation for Russia’s dangerously unclear and homophobic laws, will make headlines in Sochi—but it seems likely that the protests will not all be as subtle as Russian authorities would prefer.