Brian Boitano, who brought home Olympic gold home to America as a figure skater in 1988, came out as gay in a statement today, two days after being asked by the president to represent the U.S. at the Sochi Winter Olympics next February.
President Obama officially named Boitano to the U.S. delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics Games in Sochi just yesterday. The delegation already included two known LGBT athletes, in tennis star Billie Jean King and hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow. Many observers saw the inclusion of King and Cahow as a deliberate rebuke to Russia's stringent anti-gay laws and lack of protection for persecuted citizens. Today's revelation makes Boitano the third openly homosexual athlete to join the delegation that will represent the U.S. in Obama's place.
Despite persistent questions (and a notorious "South Park" song) Boitano has also remained silent about his sexual orientation, deflecting inquiries by insisting it was a private matter. In accepting his appointment today, Boitano is making his public admission, but again, only as a way to downplay the significance of it, saying "first and foremost I am an American athlete."
In his statement, Boitano said that, "It has been my experience from competing around the world and in Russia that Olympic athletes can come together in friendship, peace and mutual respect regardless of their individual country’s practices," apparently referring to Russia's notorious anti-gay legislations. Global attention has turned to the issue as the Sochi Olympics approach, and Obama's appointment of openly gay delegates has raised speculation that he is responding directly to Moscow's restrictions on LGBT citizens.
The Washington Post has Boitano's full statement, distributed via his publicist:
I am currently skating in Europe but want to provide a statement regarding my appointment to the Olympic delegation. I have been fortunate to represent the United States of America in three different Olympics, and now I am honored to be part of the presidential delegation to the Olympics in Sochi. It has been my experience from competing around the world and in Russia that Olympic athletes can come together in friendship, peace and mutual respect regardless of their individual country’s practices.
It is my desire to be defined by my achievements and my contributions. While I am proud to play a public role in representing the American Olympic Delegation as a former Olympic athlete, I have always reserved my private life for my family and friends and will continue to do so. I am many things: a son, a brother, and uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am. First and foremost I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance. As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations.