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Blake Skjellerup Explains Why An Olympic Boycott Is Wrong And Offers Advice For Closeted Athletes

20130827152442-Blake___Skates_2012_-_Credit_Joni_AndersonSpeed skater Blake Skjellerup is on track to make history as the first out male athlete to compete in the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next year. The 28-year-old New Zealand-born heartthrob, who came out publicly in 2010, realizes that due to Russia’s notorious antigay bill his decision to compete in February is not necessarily a popular one with some LGBT people and their allies who encourage athletes to boycott. However, Skjellerup, who previously competed in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, sees his upcoming bid for the gold as an opportunity to create global awareness of the inequality and barbaric treatment of gays in Russia and change the hearts and minds of many homophobic people around the world.

Yet, as with most openly LGBT athletes, it’s nearly impossible to land lucrative endorsement deals to help finance his training and raise the $33, 000 needed to compete so Skjellerup has launched a funding campaign (complete with nice perks for donations) through Indiegogo. During a recent visit to Los Angeles, Skjellerup chatted with Queerty in his hotel room about why he opposes an Olympics boycott, advice he offers for closeted athletes and explains his penchant for sexy photo shoots.

When will you find out if you’re definitely going to Sochi?

Based on my world ranking from the past three years, I’ll definitely be going. For it to not happen something very, very wrong would have to take place, such as breaking a leg.

You’ll be the first out male athlete to compete in the winter Olympics. What sort of responsibility comes with that?

There’s a large responsibility that comes with it. For me it feels like I’ve come 360 in a way, since I was an 18-year-old watching the Olympics. It was an inspiring moment for me to watch Matthew Mitcham compete and win the gold. He was so open about his sexual orientation that he was my first role model, the first athlete I really looked up to. He was my first role model who encompassed everything I wanted to be. I, myself, have sort of become that person. I’m excited to be that person. It’s about being yourself, one hundred percent. Going to Sochi is something I’ve dreamt of for a very long time and despite these new laws coming into place in Russia I’m not going to go back into the closet. I’m going to compete to the best of my ability and be the person I want to be.

Do you hear from young people who look up to you as a role model?

I do hear from kids who are behind me and say they see me as an inspiration, which I think is great. I hope it encourages more people to come out, especially athletes because it’s such an unexplored ethics in sports. There’s still just a handful of us. I think it’s a healthy thing to have a role model to look up to.

On:           Oct 16, 2013
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    • redspyder

      Olympic “Boycott” of a host country with antigay stances is WRONG, because he “believes in the exposure of the atrocities”.
      Turning down endorsement deals from companies with antigay stances is RIGHT, because “antigay stances are not right”.
      Olympian reasoning at its finest. Anti-gay Country – OK. Anti-Gay Company – Not OK.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 3:15 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • niles

      This is appalling.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 5:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo

      Wow. With a head that far up his arse I’m surprised you could get an interview at all.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 5:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MikeE

      @2eo: Queerty was more than happy to go where necessary to get the interview.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 5:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • litper

      Did you read the news how Dutch diplomat was attacked today at this apparttment and they left a homophobic graffiti on the wall! It’s just not safe to go there to any openly LGBT person!

      Oct 16, 2013 at 9:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • RSun

      I agree that a boycott is misguided. I hope he does well.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 9:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Thomathy

      More apologia from another athlete who wants to selfishly show off at the Olympics in Sochi? And he doesn’t have the money to get there yet?

      Good. Let’s keep it that way.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 11:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Polaro

      Seriously, I think you all are being selfish for asking these athletes to walk away from their life of training for the Olympics. Boycott the sponsors, not the Olympics.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 11:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz

      Wow, how disgusting of Queerty.. a few minutes ago there were several comments here that have been deleted. None of them abusive, and all of them expressing a valid opinion that this athlete is being incredibly selfish and small minded. Human rights are more important than his 18 years of athletic training.

      This will go soon too– but I maintain… it’s ugly and awful of him to be going. He is justifying his own needs. I don’t support him, I think he is someone I wouldn’t want to know.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 11:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BJ McFrisky

      @Polaro: Hear, hear. Better yet, for those who are so tragically offended by Russia, then just don’t watch the freakin’ Olympics. Problem solved.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 11:32 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • redspyder

      @Polaro: Technically I probably am being selfish. But not for asking him to walk away from his life of training for the Olympics.
      I just want to be spared listening to his bullsh!t as he attempts to justify attending.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Polaro

      @redspyder: He’s an athlete…they aren’t always the brightest. But, I share your frustration with people talking bull :-) E.g. Johnny Weir, whom I agree with, but would probably have to choke if I met him.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam

      @BJ McFrisky:

      What a SHOCK, who ALWAYS takes the side of whomever is attacking or discriminating against gays feels that Russia shouldn’t be inconvenienced by anything like a boycott.

      BJ, you’ve taken the sides of people that verbally assault gays, politicians who are anti-gay and now Russia. I have asked you the following question multiple times and you have always tried to ignore or deflect the comment without answer. So once again. Why is your knee jerk, first impulse to always take the side of whomever is attacking the gay community.

      For all the folks claiming that boycotts don’t work. Funny, I didn’t see you over on the article about Barilla Pasta where the company flat out stated that they were in damage control over fears of a boycott. Guess, you couldn’t have peddled that lie over there.

      And lastly. I’m sorry if I don’t sympathize too much with an athlete who wants us to flood money into Russia because he might not get sponsors if he doesn’t go. Perhaps he should be more empathetic to gays around the world who are attacked, arrested, and don’t have simple rights.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BJ McFrisky

      @Cam: Oh brother—you again.
      To be clear:
      I don’t take the sides of people who assault us.
      I don’t take the sides of politicians who are against us.
      I never took Russia’s side.
      I never took the sides of Muslims who want us jailed or killed (oh—wait—that’s you who always takes their side).
      And despite how much you strain to believe otherwise, I’m not anti-gay or self-loathing.

      Funny that, rather than discuss an issue, your kneejerk reaction is always to write multiple paragraphs about how much you hate me. Perhaps one day you’ll behave like an adult and we can engage in rational discussion.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo

      @Fitz: @Cam: I have now had 63 posts deleted on the issue of Russia deleted by Queerty.

      You’d almost think they’re receiving money from Russian sponsors.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sideout

      Good for him. As much as I hate the laws in Russia and the decision of the IOC, I’m glad this isn’t stepping in the way of his dreams. It shows a lot of pride in his sport to do so. For those who are shaming him for being selfish – you try committing that much time and effort to something to pass it up just because someone believes something so outlandish.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Thomathy

      @2eo: Surely not a vodka company?

      Oct 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MK Ultra

      Russia is a crumbling shadow of its former self. Dull, gray, hopeless.Combine that with high suicide rates, the huge drug problem with the youth, the huge alcohol problem with both youth and adults, being the world’s center for child prostitution, corruption fom the ground up, and it’s obvious that there aren’t enough sponsorship stickers in the world to cover up the cultural wasteland that was once a proud empire.
      Idon’t expect the athletes to boycott. I’d like them to but don’t see it happening. Personally I’d like to see a mass demonstration of solidarity among athletes. What powerful symbolism. The worst outcome would be if no one said anything about Russia’s crimes. That would pretty much ensure Russia wins the propaganda war they’re on. Not doubt athletes returning after that would try to woo back the LGBT comm after that with such throw away phrases like “But Iwas thinking of you!”. But the damage will alreeady be done. And their words after the fact will only dis appoint more.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • 2eo

      @sideout: Yeah I mean it’s not like there’s past precedence for this is there.

      1936 glorified Germany and solidified the Aryan ideal in the minds of the average German, it was an enormous triumph for Germany and brought in millions and millions, a lot of which was used to build a place called Bergen Belsen. Place is quite significant, I suggest you look it up.

      All doing nothing does is embolden the evil.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Larry

      I just dont get how anyone who professes to be for us can criticize one of us for having a different opinion. Since when do you get to decide what other people think is right? The Olympics is his job. I challenge each and every one of you to send an email to EVERYONE in your company no matter how big it is that you are gay. He has done that and he wants to do his job and win a medal for his country. You have a right to do your job and live your life like you want. RESPECT his opinion and quit name calling.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jay

      @BJ McFrisky: I don’t read the comments very often, BJ, but every time I’ve ever noticed anything you’ve said, it’s basically the anti-gay option. I actually didn’t think you were gay.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      If this bill had been voted in the US, would you have the same opinion? What is far, is usely more acceptable, isn’t it?

      Oct 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Larry : i totally disagree with you. Oh by the way, if he was a Russian, he have the right to do is job but not live his life like he wants…LOL but fortunately, he is an American. If he’s job is more important than human rights or gay rights, it’s ok with me…but i disagree with his vision of life.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 6:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      I rectifiy : ” fortunately, he is not a Russian, he is a Canadian, now.”

      Oct 16, 2013 at 6:16 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

      It is very simple. He has worked hard for the opportunity to go to the Olympics and compete. It is not a selfish decision he is making. It is his life’s goal, and who knows if he will ever have this opportunity again. He has trained hard, and is physically and emotionally ready to compete, meaning his body may never be as prepared and in shape as it is now. It is not the Olympiad’s (contestants) that should be responsible for boycotting the Olympics. It is the Olympic Committee and the sponsors that should make that decision. However, if his safety is in jeopardy, than that is another story altogether. Gay or straight is not the issue really. Blake is a serious contender, and should take advantage of any opportunity he can. I commend him for his committment to follow through with this, and wish him the best of luck with his journey to succeed and win.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 6:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @redspyder : you are so right. Olympian reasoning at it’s finest.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 6:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Ben Cooper : so the Athletes are like soldiers…they don’t have to think by themselves, just wait for the Olympics Commitee and sponsors to decide…WOW.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 6:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mz.sam

      Blake is HOT! So looking forward to see him get naked with a painted rainbow flag during the opening and closing ceremonies.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 7:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @mz.sam : maybe that’s why sooo many gays agree with his view… LOL

      Oct 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      Becuse he is sexy. LOL

      Oct 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Ben Cooper : that is the decision of each country to go or not to go to the Olympics. And a country is the people who live in that country. For example : at the Montreal games, almost all African countries boycoted the games because of New Zealand was participating and had sent a team to South Africa by that time, did not respect the Blacks. In Moscow games almost all Western coutries decided not to go.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ronbo

      @mz.sam: He could lose his little medal thingie…. Don’t expect Blake to do anything that would risk anything. He would blow Himler if he thought he could score a contract.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 7:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Rondo : i like it !

      Oct 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

      I think my statement is very clear. No, they are not soldiers, and they are not sexual objects. They are human, as we are. They have dedicated their lives to compete in a world recognized sporting event. This takes years of hard work, both mentally and physically, to get to that point. Anybody, in his position, would do the same. Making a gay statement is not his purpose or his position. His purpose is to compete and to be the best that he can be in his sport. This is much more important for him than making any gay statement. If he wins, he can make a statement. And that statement will be, that as a gay man of skill and courage, he is an example to all gays around the world, that gay men and woman can compete in the Olympics, and even win the Gold Medal! That would be a great way to recognize his skill and his sexuality at the same time. And, that, my friend, is much more important for mankind and rewarding for him.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz

      The fact that has worked so hard, will have so few chances, and has made sacrifices is NOT RELEVANT to the fact that he will help make the Russian Olympics a success for them. He’s too young to fully understand the consequences. It’s not courage that eggs him on, it’s ambition. I feel horribly sorry for him, because there is NO winning position. He is either a hero or a quisling, and nothing in between.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PerryBrass

      @MK Ultra: I agree with everything you’ve said. Russia is on the verge of a complete break down. Putin is really the problem, although for a while he seemed like the solution, but Russia’s problems go a lot further back than him. I also agree with Blake Skjellerup about not boycotting the Olympics—people are going to learn a lot from men like Blake at these Olympics, just like HItler learned a lot from Jesse Owens at the famous 1936 Berlin Olympics—not that it stopped Hitler in any way.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 9:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Palmer Scott

      @Stefano: He’s not Canadian, he’s a New Zealander.

      Oct 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Palmer Scott

      @PerryBrass: Exactly what did Hitler learn from Jesse Owens?

      @BJ McFrisky: What do you think boycotting the Olympics would entail if not watching the games doesn’t constitutes a “boycott”?

      Oct 16, 2013 at 11:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • oilgun

      Oh good grief , where were you guys during the Beijing Olympics. Leave this outsanding athlete alone, I completely support him and wish him the best.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 12:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Faggot

      “Creating awareness around the atrocity of these new laws that exist in Russia is what’s going to bring about the change, maybe not in the law, but in people’s rights. Hopefully it will bring about the conversation necessary to repeal this law.”

      Awareness would be created by a boycott. Right now most people are NOT aware of Russia’s intolerance towards gays. A boycott would make the entire world aware of this. If you really want awareness, the threat of a boycott would be the most productive stance.

      This would not be the first time that the USA boycotted the Olympic Games. In fact, it happened in 1980 in Russia! In 1979 President Jimmy Carter gave an ultimatum — if the Soviet troops did not withdraw from Afghanistan within a month, the USA would boycott the 1980 Summer Games in Russia. The Soviets did not withdraw and the Americans (in addition to more than sixty other nations) boycotted the Olympics that year.

      Why did a boycott happen then, and why aren’t LGBT rights a good enough reason for a boycott now?

      Barack should have given a similar ultimatum with a time frame. In that way Russia could have responded. The mere threat of a boycott by a US president would have agitated Russia and the Olympic Committee into a pro-active response.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 1:55 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

      Unfortunately, some of these negative views and comments come from some very small minded, self-centered people. I know, if I were Blake, I would do exactly what he is doing. It’s his time to shine, and no one knows the odds of that ever happening again. He will have many more supporters than non supporters. His first and foremost support must come from himself and him following his life long Olympic dreams. His success in this endeavor will have a greater, far-reaching positive affect for the gay agenda and future gay atheletes all over the world. The mere fact that he is not letting the gay issue deter his goal of competing, shows people everywhere, gay and straight, that he is courageous, thoughtful, and determined. To compete, speaks volumes about his good character. Blake congratulations. You do your thing, and we support your decision.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 2:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Palmer scott : i know he is from New Zealand but in lives in Calgary, Canada now.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 5:34 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Ben Cooper: defend human and gay rights is not a negative view, sorry. And with your post, i more convince that he is doing it for himself. And please, don’t say “we”…talk for yourself.

      @ftiz : i totally agree with you.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 5:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @faggot : totally with you.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 5:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      “Why did a boycott happen then, and why aren’t LGBT rights a good enough reason for a boycott now? ” thank you faggot !!!

      Oct 17, 2013 at 5:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      Why did a boycott happen then, and why aren’t LGBT rights a good enough reason for a boycott now? Response : because nobody cares about gays in Russia. What is far is usely acceptable, isn’t it? LOL

      Oct 17, 2013 at 6:12 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Ben Cooper: defend human and gay rights is not a negative view, sorry. And this is not just about gay rights…it is about human rights. Gays are human being, you know. So it’s more important than any Olympics, or any athletes or even me !!! It is Blake that is selfish, he only thinks about his career and money.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 6:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Ben Cooper : come and talk with me on facebook…my name is Stephane Jean, i’m from Rigaud, Canada.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 6:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rockery

      Why doesn’t he just say what he really means, he just doesn’t want to boycott because he wants to try for a medal. All of that illogical rambling is necessary. Just say what you mean.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 8:15 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • smudge

      Because the free world strives for democracy I have no comment to those who have made negative comments concerning Blake’s Olympic boycott decision, after all everyone has the right to free speech and their opinion. The bigger more important point to make here is that Blake and all Olympians gay or straight should be commended for standing up to ignorance. What better place than the World Stage can Blake and other gay and lesbian athletes show what they have accomplished and sacrificed to represent themselves and their Countries. No athlete should be shamed into a boycott because the country chosen is anti-gay. Possibly the Olympic Committee should in the future do more due digilence when choosing a PROPER host country. Afterall, I thought the Olympics is suppose to be a coming together not an opportunity to exclude. Let’s break the cycle of bigotry, as Stephen Sondheim said, a quote from “Into the Woods”, “the children are listening.”

      Oct 17, 2013 at 9:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • alterego1980

      Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!!! Everyone who says the Olympics should be boycotted are wrong. Exposure WILL bring about equality. That is the only truth. This is not unlike breaking the color barrier in baseball in the 40’s. Jackie Robinson became a hero by rising above the hate and the first gay competitors can do the same in the face of unjust laws in Russia and elsewhere. Sports is a final frontier for gays and the more out athletes, the quicker those barriers will fall.
      Blake SHOULD go for his metal and he should be PROUD to represent the possibilities for all gay athletes despite the Russian Gov’t. I would love nothing more than seeing him wave a big ole rainbow flag as he accepts his metal, but I leave that entirely up to him.

      Oct 17, 2013 at 9:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

      STEPHANE JEAN-Can not find you on facebook. There are too many with that name. Friend me, and I will accept- BEN COOPER STEVENS

      Oct 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Camsean01

      Self serving semi-nonsensical crap.

      Oct 18, 2013 at 5:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam

      @BJ McFrisky: said….

      @Cam: Oh brother—you again.
      To be clear:
      I don’t take the sides of people who assault us.
      I don’t take the sides of politicians who are against us.
      I never took Russia’s side.
      I never took the sides of Muslims who want us jailed or killed (oh—wait—that’s you who always takes their side).

      No, actually BJ, I’ve never taken the side of anti-gay Muslims ever. What you are referring to is that whenever there is an article on Queerty about for example, the anti-gay Christians in the military who want gays kicked out, you come out and try to deflect the conversation by saying we shouldn’t be talking about them, what about all the anti-gay Muslims.

      I then point out that you are refusing to state your opinion about the anti-gay bigots and would you please do so. You then claim that I am somehow taking the side of “Anti-Gay Muslims” even though the article and my posts have nothing to do with that.

      So lets see what you have proven. You will defend anti-gay bigots if they are Christians, you hate Muslims, and you always knee jerk to defend the anti-gay subject of an article on here.

      Makes it pretty obvious you’re just a self hating Tea Partier.

      Oct 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stefano

      @Ben Cooper : ok i send you a demande of friendship on Facebook. It’s not because i disagree with you that i hate you. :-P and i can say the same fo all the people here. Anyway…

      I think we can all agree that what it is happening in Russia is terrible. And it’s not the only part of the world where gays and lesbians suffer. I think that we are lucky to live the way we want to live our lives here. If Blake wants to go to the Olympics, it’s his decision. I don’t think it’s a right way to do something about laws on Russia because my experience show me that only an social battle, an economic battle or a war can change things in a coutry…look here, it is only because we stand together that things change. And just face it, we (gays and lesbians) are no longer united. I don’t think what Blake is doing can do any change, he surestimate is value.

      Oct 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

      Hate is a very strong word, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You obviously, agree with my position, if you have such a stong opinion and “friend” me on Facebook? I do not disagree with you that Russia’s stance on gay culture is wrong and unjust. I don’t think I would ever want to go there myself. I totally wish that the Olympics would have been moved to another country that respects everyone as equals. But, if you walk in Blakes shoes, and understand that training for the Olympics is a long term dream of any athelete, you will understand his position. As I said before, after the Olympics have closed, whether Blake wins or not, that is the time that he can speak out about the gay agenda-if he wants to. As a winner (or loser), that would be an appropriate time to send the world this message. And it would mean a lot more. Remember, this guy is an athelete, not necessarily a gay activist. He will have his chance, if he desires, to do both. Just support him in his efforts. He may just surprise us all!

      Oct 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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