Record number of out LGBTQ+ athletes competing in Winter Olympics

The 2022 Winter Olympics kick off in Beijing on Friday, February 4, with double the number of queer athletes competing compared to 2018.

Images of Sarka Pancochova, Lewis Gibson, and Nicole Silveira, athletes competing at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Image: Instagram: @sarkasnow | Instagram: @lewisgibson4 | Instagram: @nicole__silveira

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is just days away, and this year’s games will feature a record number of out LGBTQ+ athletes. There are expected to be at least 35 openly queer Olympians among the 2,871 taking part, which is double the number that was competing in the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

There will be known LGBTQ+ athletes competing across nine different sports from February 4 to February 28. Team Canada boasts the most with ten out athletes, followed by the United States with six, Team GB with four, Sweden with three, and France and the Czech Republic with two apiece.

Ice hockey and figure skating are the sports with the most representation, having twelve and ten athletes respectively. All of the out ice hockey players are women, while in skating, eight are men, one is non-binary and one is pansexual.

This is just the second Winter Olympics with known queer men competing, the first time being in 2018 when four out of the fifteen LGBTQ+ athletes were male. In Beijing, there will be at least eleven, almost one-third of the total number.

According to OutSports, Team GB figure skater, Lewis Gibson, spoke on the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in the Games.

“It’s honestly a privilege to feel part of a community, and one that is pushing boundaries like no other. Every four years the numbers skyrocket up and up, and it’s so great to see and so great to be a part of. The Olympics are a legacy and being part of this group of people is that as well.”

Meanwhile, snowboarder Sarka Pancochova uses her platform to push for LGBTQ+ rights in the Czech Republic.

“It’s always an honor to be able to represent my country at the Olympics, and also represent the LGBTQ community and push for gay marriage in Czech Republic.

“It’s been on my mind constantly!” she added.

Two athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics are both competitors and partners. Belgium’s Kim Meylemans and Brazil’s Nicole Silveira are preparing to battle it out in the Skeleton event and will have to put their romantic relationship to the side in order to do so. 

Speaking on the upcoming challenge, Meylemans explained: “It’s very special to be able to share [the] Olympic games with your partner. It’s an extremely stressful high pressure period, so to have my person there as a comfort and safe space is of immense value to me, and also my performance. It brings a sense of calmness and normality into the most crazy weeks of our career.”

See the full list of out LGBTQ+ athletes competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics here.

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