Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano, who won a gold medal at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, has come out as gay, two days after President Obama selected him to serve as part of the official U.S. delegation to the Sochi Olympics in February.
“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,” Boitano said in a statement, according to USA Today’s Christine Brennan. “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.”
There was speculation about Boitano’s sexuality when the White House made the announcement — the San Francisco Chronicle reported he was gay, but he has previously refused to talk about it. There will now be three openly gay athletes representing the U.S. delegation, as Boitano joins tennis legend Billie Jean King and former Olympic hockey player Caitlin Cahow. King came out in 1981; Cahow came out in November.
Don’t expect any big statements from Boitano, who told Brennan that he has “always reserved my private life for my family and friends and will continue to do so.” But as I wrote Tuesday, sending openly gay athletes to Sochi is a major statement from Obama, given that Russia has faced worldwide criticism since passing an anti-gay law over the summer. That Boitano will now be a part of that statement as an openly gay man makes it even stronger.