Olympic History Made: First Gold Medals for Same-Sex Spouses

Helen and Kate Richardson Walsh -Great Britain, Field Hockey

An Olympic Games with the most openly LGBT competitors ever saw more history made Friday, as Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh of Great Britain became the first same-sex married couple to win medals — and they’re gold.

Both are players on the British women’s field hockey team, which beat the Netherlands in a tie-breaking “shootout” — similar to a sudden-death overtime — at the Rio games. The teams were tied 3-3 at the end of regulation play Friday night, setting up the shootout, in which Great Britain scored two goals to win the gold, with Helen Richardson-Walsh responsible for the first, on a penalty stroke. This was the first gold medal win for the British team; the Netherlands team is the silver medalist.

“It is really, really special,” Kate Richardson-Walsh, who is captain of the British team, told USA Today after the game. “To win an Olympic medal is special. To do it with your wife … we will cherish this for the rest of our lives.”

The women have been together since 2008 and were married in 2013, the year same-sex marriage was legalized in the United Kingdom.

There were other factors that made the win particularly meaningful. Kate’s jaw was broken by a hockey stick in the 2012 London Olympics, but she had surgery right away and continued to captain the team, which won the bronze medal that year.

“I am so proud of the way she has come back,” Helen told USA Today. “She deserves this so much.”

The British also defeated a particularly dominant Netherlands team — the Dutch women’s field hockey team had not lost an Olympic match since 2004, the paper reports. This year’s Dutch team also has a couple of out lesbian or bi members, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Maartje Paumen. And the British team has another lesbian member, Susannah Townsend.

The Richardson-Walshes said they hope they will inspire closeted LGBT athletes to come out, they told the newspaper. “There will surely be more gay married couples who compete at the same Games, either together or otherwise,” notes USA Today reporter Martin Rogers. “Before long, it might be normal enough to be barely worth mentioning. Let’s hope so, but this was a fine way to start.”

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