Final Tally: Out Olympians Score Big in Medals

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday August 9, 2021

Tom Daley
Tom Daley  (Source:Tom Daley/Instagram)

Could being out enhance performance? The numbers are suggestive: Out of a record 182 known out LGBTQ+ athletes competing at this year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo, 55 won medals, more than justifying the sobriquet come have given to the games: "The Rainbow Olympics."

In fact, NBC News noted, if the out Olympians were to be regarded as their own team, "they would rank 11th in the total medal count (right behind France and before Canada), with 32 team and individual medals: 11 gold, 12 silver and nine bronze."

"Team LGBTQ," as Outsports has dubbed this summer's crop of out Olympic athletes, competed based on national representation, of course. But in that respect, too, they set a record, with athletes from 30 nations having ditched the closet and competing in unabashed authenticity.

NBC News listed all the out athletes who won the gold, whether individually or as part of triumphant teams. They included:

"Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha for the 10-kilometer event; French martial artist Amandine Buchard for mixed team judo; Venezuelan track and field athlete Yulimar Rojas for the triple jump; Irish boxer Kellie Harrington; New Zealand rower Emma Twigg; U.S. women's basketball team members Sue Bird, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi; American 3-on-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 finally took home the gold for synchronized diving at his fourth Games."

Even at the Olympics, though, anti-LGBTQ trolls made their ugly sentiments known. In this respect, Russian newscasters took a sad first place of their own, "using words like 'abomination' and 'perversion,' " the BBC noted.

Daley was among the out athletes that state-run Russian news outlets smeared with slurs and contemptuous commentary. But, as previously reported, the champion diver let the slurs run off him like water off a duck's back, saying he hadn't even noticed the comments. Why would he? He was busy winning medals. "When we're at the Olympics, we're in a bubble and we don't really see anything," Daley told the press.

Canadian women's soccer team member Quinn, who is openly trans, "helped the squad earn gold after a matchup with Sweden," NBC News reported. Quinn took to Instagram to recall those who came before but had to remain closeted, posting that "there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world."

Lesbian shot put silver medallist Raven Saunders of the United States signaled a triumphant message — and risked losing her medal — by flashing an "X" with her arms crossed, NBC News noted.

The crossed arms, she said, stood for "the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet." Saunders added: "My message is to keep fighting, keep pushing, keep finding value in yourself, find value in everything you do."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.