Tokyo Olympics to welcome record number of LGBTQ+ athletes

Muri Assuncao, New York Daily News

Tokyo, Japan - The Tokyo Olympics are set to break a world record even before the Covid-19-style opening ceremony gets under way at the Japan National Stadium on Friday.

A world record number of LGBTQ+ athletes are headed to Tokyo.
A world record number of LGBTQ+ athletes are headed to Tokyo.  © Collage: 123RF/ somartin & IMAGO / GEPA pictures

At least 142 openly LGBTQ+ athletes will participate in the world’s largest sports celebration — a huge increase from the last Summer Olympics. Rio 2016 saw a then-record-breaking 56 out-and-proud athletes.

In fact, according to Outsports, this year’s massive number of LGBTQ+ athletes is greater than all of previous Summer Games combined.

Some are competing as openly LGBTQ+ for the first time, after participating in previous events without acknowledging their sexual orientation or gender expression.

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Canada’s Markus Thormeyer, a 23-year-old swimmer who specializes in freestyle and backstroke, wasn’t out when he competed in Rio. He told Outsports that, "competing at the Olympics as an openly gay athlete is pretty amazing."

"Being able to compete with the best in the world as my most authentic self at the biggest international multi-sport games shows how far we’ve come on inclusion in sport," he said. "I’m hoping that by competing at these Games I can show the LGBTQ+ community that we do belong and we can achieve anything we put our minds to."

Thormeyer, who won a bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, came out as gay last year in an essay for Outsports.

"After letting my walls down and coming out to the team, I felt like I could finally be me," he wrote in February 2020.

Out athletes in Tokyo will participate in 26 sports. At least 25 countries will have at least one LGBTQ+ Olympian.

The US tops the list with 34 athletes. Among them, engaged couple and sports superstars Megan Rapinoe in soccer and Sue Bird in basketball, members of the first ever US Olympic skateboarding team Alexis Sablone and Alana Smith, and Kayla Miracle – the first out LGBTQ+ Olympic wrestler.

Canada is bringing 16 LGBTQ+ athletes, followed by the UK with 15, and the Netherlands with 13. Both New Zealand and Australia are bringing nine athletes, and Brazil will have eight openly LGBTQ+ Olympians.

The Tokyo games will also welcome the first openly transgender Olympian. Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old New Zealand weightlifter, will compete in the women’s super-heavyweight 87-kg, or 192 pounds, weightlifting category.

Cover photo: Collage: 123RF/ somartin & IMAGO / GEPA pictures

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