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July 27, 2012

20 out athletes compete in Olympics

London--Almost two dozen openly gay and lesbian athletes are competing in the Olympics, along with two out coaches and two Paralympians.

Not counting the head coach of the United States women’s soccer team Pia Sundhage, Hope Powell of Britain’s women’s soccer team, British Paralympics volleyball player Claire Harvey and British equestrian Lee Pearson, the total of out LGBT athletes is 20, nine above the total for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens and ten more than Beijing’s total four years ago.

There would have been 21 queer athletes in the games, but Stephany Lee was kicked off the U.S. wrestling team in June after testing positive for marijuana.

Both and the Advocate noted that the number might have been higher were softball not cut from the summer Olympics; Advocate noted the stereotypical association of lesbians with softball.

Only three of the athletes are men, Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, who won gold in the 10-meter platform in 2008, British equestrian Carl Hester and Dutch equestrian Edward Gal.

Triathletes Carole Péon and Jessica Harrison of France are a couple, and are joined by handballer Alexandra Lacrabère.

Sweden is represented by soccer player Jessica Landström and soccer players Lisa Dahlkvist and Hedvig Lindahl, while Mitcham is joined by fellow Australian Natalie Cook, competing in beach volleyball.

Three German lesbians are competing, cyclist Judith Arndt, cyclist Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and fencer Imke Duplitzer.

Gal is joined by fellow Nederlanders Marilyn Agliotti, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Maartje Paumen in field hockey.

The United States has three out athletes with Lisa Raymond in doubles tennis, Seimone Augustus in women’s basketball and Megan Rapinoe in soccer.

Denmark and Brazil each have one queer athlete, handball players Rikke Skov and Mayssa Pessoa respectively.

“You spend a day with these athletes, and it becomes obvious that gay people are everywhere,” former equestrian Robert Dover told the Associated Press in 2004. “The reason many of them aren’t out is because they’re focused on their job during this time when sports is the number one thing in their lives.”

His sentiments were echoed by gymnast Josh Dixon, who came out to in May but missed making the team for the Olympics. He told the website that his regimen while at Stanford was “eat, sleep, train and do homework.”

“Gymnastics was my number one priority, and if something got in the way of that, I had to push it aside,” he said, noting that he was out within his circle of fellow gymnasts.

While the United States, Germany, Sweden, Australia, France and the Netherlands have gay members of their Olympic coterie, Canada’s chef de mission is Mark Tewksbury, Olympic gold medalist and out gay man. He will be the face of Canada for the Olympics, the go-to person for athletes and tourists from Canada.



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