“Team LGBTQ” Wins 32 Medals at Tokyo Olympics

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As the torch goes out at the National Stadium of Japan in Meiji-Jingu Park, the end of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games has arrived, dubbed “the Rainbow Olympics” by some for the record number of LGBTQ competitors.

At least 182 athletes from around 30 countries attended the Tokyo Games, more than three times the number of athletes who competed at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, according to sports site LGBTQ Outsports.

Of those athletes, who competed in some 35 different sports, at least 55 won medals – five won gold for Team USA’s only women’s basketball. In fact, if LGBTQ Olympians competed as their own country – affectionately labeled “Team LGBTQ” by Outsports – they would place 11th. in total medals (just behind France and ahead of Canada), with 32 team and individual medals: 11 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze.


Gold medalist Ana Marcela Cunha of Team Brazil poses after the women’s 10km swimming marathon at Odaiba Marine Park on August 4, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.Clive Rose / Getty Images

Gold medalists include Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha for the 10km event; French martial artist Amandine Buchard for mixed team judo; Venezuelan outfielder Yulimar Rojas for the triple jump; Irish boxer Kellie Harrington; New Zealand rower Emma Twigg; Sue Bird, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart and Dianna Taurasi, members of the United States National Women’s Basketball Team; American 3×3 basketball player Stefanie Dolson; Canadian women’s soccer team members Quinn, Kadeisha Buchanan, Erin McLeod, Kailen Sheridan and Stephanie Labbe; French handball players Amandine Leynaud and Alexandra Lacrabère; New Zealand rugby players Gayle Broughton, Ruby Tui, Kelly Brazier and Portia Woodman; and, of course, British diver Tom Daley, who ultimately won gold in synchronized diving at his fourth Games.

Emma Twigg of New Zealand poses with the gold medal in the Olympic single scull rowing final on July 30, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.Darron Cummings / AP

“I’m incredibly proud to say that I’m a gay man and also an Olympic champion,” Daley, 2, told reporters after he and his diving partner Matty Lee scored a winning score of 471.81 on the platform. 10 m shape. “When I was younger I didn’t think I would ever succeed because of who I was. Being an Olympic champion now just shows that you can accomplish anything. ”


Tom Daley from Great Britain knits in the stands on August 2, 2021 in Tokyo. Antonio Bronic / Reuters

But Daley’s victory – with footage of him knitting a cozy little one for his medal – was just one of many weird stories to come out of the Games.

After winning silver for the Philippines, featherweight boxer Nesthy Petecio told reporters, “I am proud to be part of the LGBTQ community,” according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer,

“Let’s go, let’s fight!” she added. “This fight is also for the LGBTQ community.”

Nesthy Petecio with a silver medal after losing to Japan’s Sena Irie in the women’s 60kg featherweight boxing final on August 3, 2021 in Tokyo.Luis Robayo / AP

The 2020 Summer Games also saw the first transgender Olympians to emerge, including Canada’s Quinn, who won a gold medal for her country’s women’s soccer team. Quinn, a midfielder who uses them / them pronouns, helped the team win gold after a clash with Sweden. Prior to becoming trans, Quinn won a bronze medal with Team Canada at the Rio 2016 Summer Games.

In a July 22 Instagram post, Quinn said they felt sad “there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.”

After their championship game, Quinn wrote on Instagram: “Olympic Champions! Did this really just happen ?! ? “

Team Canada’s Quinn poses with her gold medal in Yokohama on August 6, 2021 in Yokohama, Japan.Naomi Baker / Getty Images

There were also stories of activism off the playing field: Team USA shot putter Raven Saunders risked having her silver medal revoked after raising her hands and crossing them in a gesture in “X” as she stood on the podium.

Saunders, a lesbian, said the symbol represented “the intersection where all oppressed people meet,” according to the Associated Press. “My message is to keep fighting, to keep pushing, to keep finding value in yourself, to find value in everything you do.”

She has spoken about her struggles with depression and advocates for both racial justice and mental health.

“I’m not just fighting for myself,” Saunders told NBC Olympics reporter Lewis Johnson after the ceremony. “I’m fighting for a lot more people. I want to say hello to the entire LGBTQ community. Anyone with mental health issues. All those who are black. I shout to everyone.

IOC regulations prohibit political statements or podium protests, but the organization suspended its investigation into Saunders’ actions after it announced that her mother, Clarissa Saunders, had died.

There were heartwarming stories too: After winning a silver medal in the women’s quadruple, Polish rower Katarzyna Zillman publicly thanked her girlfriend.

“I called my girlfriend, Julia Walczak, a Canadian,” Zillman told Wirtualna Polska. “I showed her the medal, she confessed to me that for the past two weeks, she had been a big bundle of nerves. And today she was relaxed. For me it is also a day of great relief and relaxation, after five years, where every day I thought about the Olympic medal race and when we will win it.

Zillman has spoken to the press before about being in a same-sex relationship, she told Sportowe Fakty, “but for some reason it hasn’t been released.”

Poland has seen an increase in state-sanctioned homophobia in recent years, with dozens of cities passing ordinances declaring themselves “LGBT-free zones”. In 2020, President Andrzej Duda won a second five-year term after calling LGBTQ ideology “more destructive” than communism and signing a “Family Charter” pledge to ban same-sex marriage, rights gay adoption and teaching LGBTQ issues in schools.

Zillman said she was happy to use the Games as a chance to stand up for the LGBTQ community.

“I know that this way I will help others,” she told Sportowe Fakty. “It was enough for me to introduce myself with a T-shirt with the mention ‘Sport against homophobia’ and I received a few messages from young girls practicing rowing. One of them opened up to me, described her difficult family situation and told me that I had helped her a lot with my attitude. Such a message is enough to completely forget about the thousands of hateful comments and disgusted faces. “

Days after Zillman’s press conference, Italian archer Lucilla Boari also stepped out after beating American Mackenzie Brown to take bronze, the first Italian woman to win a medal in the sport.

In a live-streamed press conference, Boari received a message of support from Dutch archer Sanne de Laat, who did not attend the Games.

“It’s great, great, great, amazing and I’m super proud of you,” said De Laat, reported the Advocate. “I can’t wait for you to be here to give yourself the biggest hug ever.” I love you so much. Good work.”

A tearful Boari told reporters: “This is Sanne, my girlfriend.”

While Italy doesn’t have the same anti-LGBTQ reputation as Poland, the predominantly Catholic country is among the most conservative in Western Europe. Same-sex marriage is not recognized and anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual orientation and gender identity are limited.

Joanna Hoffman, communications director for Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that advocates for inclusion in sport at all levels, said the historic numbers of Olympians and Paralympians “show how far we’ve come in terms of inclusiveness, visibility and representation “.

“This year’s Games pioneering athletes are revolutionary not only for their own triumphs, but also to show the world that LGBTQ + people belong to all aspects of life, especially and including sport,” Hoffman told NBC News.

But she stressed that creating an inclusive sport culture requires a holistic approach, “and never leave it to an LGBTQ + athlete to come out.”

“Rather, it is up to coaches, leagues and governing bodies to meaningfully create and maintain safe spaces so that athletes feel they can be themselves genuine if they come forward.

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