The Tokyo Queer Games: 19 LGBTQ Medals and Lots of Emotions
Elite sport and same-sex love – a notoriously conflict-ridden relationship. Many athletes hide their homosexuality for fear of negative reactions from other athletes, fans and sponsors. It is therefore all the more astonishing what is currently happening at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
An evaluation of the website Outsports currently comes to 180 LGBTQ athletes who are competing in Japan. They all openly profess their sexual orientation. In London 2012 there were only 23 and in Rio 2016 56. The PORTAL, which is domiciled in the USA, does not rule out the possibility that there are others that have not been on its radar until now.
The track record is also impressive. According to Outsports, “Team LGBTQ” has won 19 medals so far (as of Sunday), more than Switzerland, which is spoiled for success. Team sports count as one medal, for example the four lesbian players who won the Rugby Olympic Title with New Zealand.
In Japan, of all places, where homosexuality is a sensitive issue and same-sex relationships cannot be legalized, LGBTQ sports seem to be experiencing their Olympic breakthrough. This shows “how far we have come with integration in the sport,” said the Canadian swimmer. Marcus Thormeyer opposite Outsport.
Some LGBTQ medals are also associated with emotions and special stories. There is the athlete Yulimar Rojas from Venezuela, who triumphed in the triple jump and surpassed an ancient world record. Or the French judoka Amandine Buchard, which won silver in its individual category up to 52 kg and gold with the mixed team.
There is the British diver Tom Daley and the New Zealand rower Emma Twigg, both of whom won gold for the first time at their fourth Olympic Games. Daley won together with Matty Lee in synchronized jumping from the 10-meter tower. They achieved the feat of breaking the dominance of the Chinese in this sport.
Daley then caused a sensation not only with his emotional appearance at the press conference, but also with his handling of wool and knitting needles in the stands. The story of Emma Twigg is also special. The victory in the skiff was not only her first medal ever, the Games in Tokyo are the first since her coming out.
There is the US bullet pusher Raven Saunders, who not only caused a sensation with her shrill outfits. At the award ceremony, the silver medallist protested with a clear gesture against discrimination of all kinds, which promptly led to an investigation by the “virtue guardians” of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
There’s women’s football, which is the most represented on Outsports’ LGBTQ list with more than 40 female athletes. The most famous name is Megan Rapinoe. With her commitment to LGBTQ rights and against racism beyond the sports scene, the American has become a role model or enemy image, depending on her point of view.
In Tokyo, however, the attention belongs to a member of the Canadian team that will play the final against Sweden on Friday. Quinn is the first non-binary person to participate in the Olympics. Her story is similar to that of the New Zealand trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, whose start in Tokyo was controversial.
And there is also the Polish rower Katarzyna Zillmann, who had her coming out immediately after winning the silver medal in the double quadruple. She dedicated the success to her partner, a canoeist. What is piquant about this is that Poland is governed by the national-conservative PiS party and was last year classified as the most LGBTQ anti-LGBTQ EU country.
The Sagittarius Aleksandra Jarmolinska demonstratively arrived at the opening ceremony in Tokyo with a rainbow mask. President Andrzej Duda, who called LGBTQ an “ideology” in the fight for re-election last year, took 24 hours to congratulate the rowers on silver. He didn’t say a word about Zillmann’s coming out.
One could mention other names, such as the American Hannah Roberts, who finished second in the BMX Freestyle, ahead of the Swiss Nikita Ducarroz. Or the Italian archer Lucilla Boari, who after winning the bronze medal in the individual competition was surprised by Casa Italia with a congratulatory message from her friend.
What is immediately noticeable in this list: Almost without exception, they are women. This is no coincidence. In outsports’ LGBTQ list, they are outnumbered 8-1 over the men. Obviously, women have much less trouble with coming out than men, which in turn is not particularly surprising.
By the way, you won’t find any Swiss people either. This may be a coincidence, but it could also say something about a country that will introduce “marriage for all” later than some countries in Europe – provided that the electorate says yes on 26 September.
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