The Olympics are all about setting new records, and one that was shattered before the first competitor even walked in the opening ceremony is the number of out LGBTQ+ athletes participating in the Tokyo games. There are at least 162 out athletes vying for the gold in Tokyo, including 33 representing the United States. Here are the queer athletes of Team USA.
Brittney Griner — Women’s Basketball
Brittney Griner, who came out as a lesbian to Sports Illustrated in 2013, will be playing Center for Team USA in Tokyo. At the time, she told the publication she was proud of who she is. “Don't worry about what other people are going to say, because they're always going to say something, but, if you're just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don't hide who you really are," she said.
Chelsea Gray — Women’s Basketball
Out basketball player Chelsea Gray is playing point guard for Team USA. In an interview with The Orange County Register, she said she knows she’s a role model for LGBTQ youth. “Us being here and talking about it is part of the resistance.’ That’s part of the understanding,” she shared.
Sue Bird — Women’s Basketball
WNBA star Sue Bird is a four-time gold medalist headed to Tokyo for her fifth and likely final Olympics. The forward met her fiancée (and fellow Olympian) Megan Rapinoe in the lead-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Chelsea Wolfe — Women’s BMX Freestyle
Chelsea Wolfe made history as the first trans person to be named to the Olympic team as a reserve athlete on the BMX Freestyle team. In an Instagram post, Wolfe revealed how much it meant to her to make the team. “I searched for so long trying to find out if there had ever been a professional trans BMX rider to show me that who I am would be okay and unfortunately I found no one,” she wrote. “Eventually I started to meet some amazing women who helped me accept that I am a woman just like any other and that I deserve a place to exist in the world just like everyone else. … On top of the thrill and challenge and the glory of chasing my Olympic dream I kept fighting because I wanted to change the world.”
Perris Benegas — Women’s BMX Freestyle
Perris Benegas is making her Olympic debut in Tokyo in the BMX Freestyle event for Team USA. Benegas came out in May 2021 on Instagram. “For the first time ever, I'm extremely excited to live my life FREE and to be wholeheartedly ME,” she wrote.
Nick Wagman — Dressage
Nick Wagman, who is a reserve for the Team USA’s dressage event, says horses were a lifesaver for him growing up. “Not knowing I was gay at the time, I felt a little awkward around my peers and this was a really good outlet for me to put my energy into, and I found a really healthy place to do that,” Wagman said on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast. “I think horses are what got me through high school in one piece because it kept me grounded through all the turmoil.”
Gia Doonan — Women’s Rowing
Gia Doonan is a first-time Olympian who’s heading to Tokyo for the U.S. Women’s eight rowing team, which is looking to win its fourth Olympic medal. In an Instagram post last September, Doonan spoke out about the hate she received for being in a relationship with girlfriend Gina Pellechio. “Due to the increased homophobia directed towards me recently and also in the country, I have never felt more empowered,” Doonan wrote. “Feeling happy and loved. Respond to hate with kindness.”
Julian Venonsky — Men’s Rowing
Out gay coxswain Julian Venonsky is leading his team in Tokyo after coming in fourth at the Rio Games in 2016. On an episode of the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, Venonsky spoke about how embracing his love life helped him grow as an athlete as well. “Halfway through my college career, my sophomore year, I started actually thinking about dating or what kind of my life I wanted to look like and I found my boyfriend on Tinder … and that kind of was a little a-ha moment for me that kind of allowed me to really dive into rowing and coxswain even more and really go after it from 2014 on and that’s kind of where I found a lot of my success,” he said.
Kendall Chase — Women’s Rowing
Out rower Kendall Chase is set to make her Olympic debut as part of the rowing team for Team USA. In a post on Instagram, Chase spoke about their dedication to social justice. “I am SO incredibly proud and honored to have been given this opportunity to represent my country, but I can’t ignore the fact that the country that I’m representing has a long history of oppression and systemic racism,” they wrote. “Although I may have a wave of patriotism over the next month, it goes without a doubt that I will continue to fight and advocate for BIPOC, Queer and Trans people.”
Alev Kelter — Women’s Rugby
Out rugby player Alev Kelter started her athletic career as a soccer and hockey player, but when her collegiate career ended she thought her Olympic ambitions had too. Then she got the call asking if she had any interest in playing rugby, where her dreams of going for the gold are coming true.
Kristen Thomas — Women’s Rugby
Rugby player Kristen Thomas is making their Olympic debut for Team USA in Tokyo. Thomas posted an Instagram message to their 15-year-old self, where they spoke reassuringly about how they would not only grow to embrace themselves, but thrive. Then, in the caption, Thomas offered to be there for other LGBTQ+ kids who are struggling. “I spent a lot of time on google as a kid trying to find people like me and learn about the community. So if you’re out there and you’re struggling, please use me as a resource. Shoot me a message or an email, I’m here to help. Happy Pride,” Thomas wrote.
Alana Smith — Women’s Skateboarding
Nonbinary skater Alana Smith is among the first-ever athletes to compete in the newly added skateboarding events for Team USA. In an Instagram post, Smith shared how the pandemic gave them time to learn about themselves. “I really took the time to learn about myself and find the human I am, a nonbinary individual,” they wrote. “With that said, I got really emotional at the press conference because this was one: my moment of coming out to the world but two: I get to unapologetically be me for the first time in my entire life… despite lots of people telling me I would never get here if I stayed true to who I really am. Whether you’re out or not, I want you to know you’re loved, accepted and I’m doing this for YOU.”
Alexis Sablone — Women’s Skateboarding
Queer identified Alexis Sablone is an X Games medalist who is looking to bring home the gold in skateboarding in Tokyo. While they are excited to compete in the games Sablone has expressed some apprehension about skateboarding going from counterculture to Olympic sport. “Although it doesn't really fit why I started or what skateboarding's about, it's a huge honor. It's a crazy life opportunity. And it's just something that I want to do, if I can,” Sablone told GQ before they qualified for the games.
Adrianna Franch — Women’s Soccer
Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch is making her Olympic debut in Tokyo, both as an athlete and an advocate who posted a letter to her Instagram to other queer athletes. “At the end of the day, you only (and always) have yourself to love and accept. Remember to love your unique qualities and personality, no matter what other people think of you,” she wrote.
Kelley O’Hara — Women’s Soccer
The Tokyo games mark the third time that Kelley O’Hara will be heading to the Olympics. The soccer defender previously played in Rio in 2016 and London in 2012 where she brought home the gold. O’Hara’s coming out was iconic: the USWNT had just won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 and she celebrated by heading to the stands to plant a big kiss on her girlfriend's mouth. Like I said, iconic.
Megan Rapinoe — Women’s Soccer
Lesbian women’s soccer forward Megan Rapinoe is headed to Tokyo for her third Olympics games. She previously won gold for Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics. She’s also a two-time World Cup champion, winning with the U.S. team in 2015 and 2019. Rapinoe came out publicly in Out in 2012. Although she had lived her life openly, she said the press had never asked her directly. “I think they were trying to be respectful and that it’s my job to say, ‘I’m gay.’ Which I am. For the record: I am gay,” she said.
Tierna Davidson — Women’s Soccer
Tierna Davidson is a rising star in soccer. She was the youngest player to join the U.S. women's World Cup team in 2019 and now she is headed to Tokyo. In an Instagram post in June, Davidson wrote an encouraging letter to LGBTQ+ youth. “Though it may be hard, I promise embracing your authentic self will bring you incredible joy. You don’t need to be loved by everyone, but you must always insist on being treated with respect. … Play as your whole self, play with pride!” Davison said.
Ally Carda — Women’s Softball
Softball pitcher Ally Carda is making her Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games. Carda credits her partner, former Olympian Kelly Kretschman, with helping her to achieve her Olympic dreams. “[She] has been a huge part of my life and my softball journey,” Carda told Softball America. “She’s just helped me with my confidence and my demeanor on the mound. She’s helped me take it to the next level.”
Amanda Chidester — Women’s Softball
Out softball catcher Amanda Chidester and her fiancé, Anissa Urtez, aren’t the only queer couple attending the Tokyo games, but these fiancées are competing against one another. Urtez plays for Mexico’s softball team and Chidester is representing Team USA.
Haylie McCleney — Women’s Softball
Outfielder Haylie McCleney is making her Olympics debut in Tokyo. It's been a big couple of years for the Alabama native who also got engaged to her partner, Kylee Hanson. The two met on the softball diamond and began as friends, but eventually became more. “Looking back now, I was so in love with her. I still am so in love with her. I’m sure it was all the social constraints of, ‘Do I really feel this way?’ and maybe just not allowing yourself to be comfortable with what really is deep attraction and feelings, but over time this was something I couldn’t ignore. She makes me so incredibly happy,” McCleney told TeamUSA.org.
Erica Sullivan — Women's Swimming
Swimmer Erica Sullivan is making her Olympic debut in the Tokyo games. She’ll be competing in the women’s 1500. Sullivan has been open about her struggles with mental health and coming out. She hopes that speaking about her struggles will allow others to feel better about their own. “At the end of the day, I can do nothing but own it and be myself,” she told USA Swimming News. “And if that can inspire anyone else to come out, that’s just amazing to me. I hope I can be a good role model to them."
Erica Bougard — Track and Field
Out heptathlete Erica Bougard will compete in seven events for Team USA: 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter run, long jump, javelin, and 800-meter run. Bougard, who is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, is also one of the stars of Nike’s “Be True” Campaign. “I’m going to be myself no matter what and let people know,” she told Nike. “I let the track community know that this is me, this is who I am. This is who I've always been.”
Raven Saunders — Track and Field
The Tokyo games will be the second time shot putter Raven Saunders is going for the gold for Team USA. They previously competed in the Rio games, where they came in fifth. “Being gay especially means happy, and that’s one thing I have started to really take pride in,” Saunders told Go Mag in 2020.
Team USA’s lesbian wrestler Kayla Miracle made history when she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first out wrestler to do so. Miracle expressed her excitement in an Instagram post. “Last day of Pride month but definitely not the last of the celebrations!! I am so thankful for those that have continuously supported me! And gosh, I am beyond stoked to represent this community in Tokyo!” she wrote.