Olympics Roundup: The Medal Race for Out Athletes

Eric Radford

Out athletes this week yet again showed that the thrill of victory sometimes comes even without a medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Star Canadian skater Eric Radford ended his competitive career on a high note while American freeskier Gus Kenworthy shook off disappointment with an iconic moment in history. And the world got another dose—unlikely the last one—of beloved figure skater Adam Rippon.

Out skater Radford and skating partner Meagan Duhamel won a bronze medal in figure skating with a free-skate performance that included landing the first quad throw quad salchow in history. That finish comes on top of a gold medal finish by Team Canada in the team event last week. The pair shortly after announced this will be their last Olympics as they retire from competition, according to the National Post. “We saved the best for last,” Radford told the Post.

American Rippon wrapped up his final competitive skate, ultimately placing 10th in men’s singles. Briefly, Rippon and NBC announced plans to bring on the witty skater as a correspondent for the rest of the games, but the gay star of the games apparently pulled out of the deal when he realized transitioning to media would mean leaving housing in the Olympic Village and the chance to march with athletes in the closing ceremony.

While Rippon will leave PyeongChang with a bronze medal for his team event, hardware proved more elusive for other out Americans. Freeskier Kenworthy had a promising qualifier in slopestyle but delivered three underwhelming runs in finals. The most important win on social media, though, was a kiss for his boyfriend on TV. And he reported online that his first out games meant more to him than making the podium.

Speed skater Brittany Bowe, who has spoken openly about dating another female skater, has placed just off the podium in three events now, finishing fourth in the 1,000-meter and fifth in the 500-meter and 1,500-meter.

Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst, who is also dating a competitive female skater right now, won two medals in the first week of the Olympics but ended up in ninth place in the 1,000 meters, where Dutch teammate Jorien Ter Mors won gold.

But both Wüst and Bowe competed today in the first Team Pursuit event and kept medal hopes alive for their respective nations. The Netherlands set an Olympic record, while Team USA secured a coveted spot in the semifinals. Now the two nations face each other in a semifinal.

In ladies’ snowboard cross, out athlete Belle Brockhoff of Australia advanced all the way to the small final before ultimately finishing in 11th place. Swiss snowboarder Simona Meiler, in her third Olympics and the second since coming out, went as far as the quarterfinals and was ranked 22nd at the end of the day.

Figure skater Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium finished in 14th place in men’s singles, enjoyed his best finish in his second Olympics. The Belgian national champion came out in January.

Out Australian cross-country skier Barbara Jezeršek finished in 33rd place in the ladies’ 10-kilometer free, the best Olympic finish ever for an Australian.

After a strong start, Swedish hockey star Emilia Ramboldt, who married wife Anna in 2016, and the national team had a rough week. Sweden lost to Switzerland, Finland and Japan. That means they now have been denied a place in the semi-finals.

Belgian slider Kim Meylemans, who confirmed to The Advocate she is competing as an out athlete, finished 14th in women’s skeleton.

Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas and Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova, both out lesbians, compete in Big Air on Monday, but neither will advance to finals with the top 12 competitors. Pancochova finished in 19th place with Maas in 20th. Finals take place Friday.

 

Coming Up

Ramboldt and the Swedes again will face the unified Korea team in a final classification game on Tuesday. Sweden beat Korea 8-0 in their first match-up of the games.

The semifinal in speed-skating team pursuit between The Netherlands and U.S. takes place Wednesday and determines who goes into the gold medal round against either Canada or Japan. The loser will fight for bronze.

Belgian bobsledder Sophie Vercruyssen, who announced a five-year relationship with Lore Simons in an Instagram post on the first day of the Olympics, will compete with sliding partner An Vannieuwensuyse starting on Tuesday. Final heats will be held on Wednesday.

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