“Athletes who are gay have nothing material to gain by coming out publicly,” says former collegiate cross-country skier Ryan Quinn, a gay National Guard member who competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics. The quote appears in an article on the gay sports website Outsports, whose editor Jim Buzinski notes, “There are no publicly gay athletes at the Winter Olympics that we know of.” That’s not true. Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst, who is competing in Vancouver and took home gold for the 3000m race at the 2006 Games, is openly gay. But after all the attention on her sexuality, she might agree with Mr. Quinn about the pitfalls of being an out athlete.
Wüst (pictured, left) came out publicly in the most normal of ways: in print. (Isn’t that how you did it?) “In a Dutch magazine, published in October 2009, the skater casually mentioned she had been in a relationship with her girlfriend since May of that year,” relays Eurout. “That girlfriend turned out to be short track speed skater Sanne van Kerkhof [pictured, right].”
An Olympic competitor dating another Olympic competitor? Quelle horreur!
Except it makes a great story whether the Olympic athlete is gay or not. But Wüst (pronounced VOOST) doesn’t see it that way.
“I want to talk about ice skating”, Wüst said in a recent interview. “You are not asking Sven Kramer (Dutch, European and World All-round Champion, Ed.) about how his relationship is going. So why would you ask me? If I would’ve had a relationship with a guy, you wouldn’t have asked me either.”
Perhaps not. Unless that guy was also an Olympic athlete. (Van Kerkhof competed in the 3000m relay.) Or maybe we’re giving the media too much credit. Where heterosexuality is the norm, any story outside that realm becomes juicy. Unless you’re of the Michael Phelps star caliber, where anyone you hug becomes a story worth reporting.
But maybe the media’s interest will die out as quickly as it arose: Wüst placed seventh in yesterday’s 3000m race.