The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have been an absolute public relations nightmare so far. A Russian company kidnapped orca whales for the Opening Ceremonies. The government planned to commit genocide on an entire city of stray dogs, didn’t finish construction in time for the Games, and even admitted that they’re spying on athletes in their showers. The athletes’ rooms are overcrowded, their sinks and toilets and elevators don’t work. This morning a WaPo reporter published an op-ed that said: “Fact: I’m scared. No, really. From Russia — with Fear, Loathing and Discrimination.”
And of course the Russian government hates The Gays. (I mean, fine, whatever, as long as The Gays are quiet about it and stay away from kids and don’t wear any rainbow flags or anything, there’s shouldn’t be a problem.) So, yeah. It’s a mess. A serious, international mess. But we have reasons to celebrate the Winter Olympics even if we have a hundred reasons not to celebrate Sochi. Billie Jean King didn’t make it as an official US ambassador (because her mom is gravely ill), but we’ve got lesbian BBC commentator Clare Balding there representing us, and seven openly gay women who plan to give it all they’ve got.
Here’s who we’re rooting for:
Cheryl Maas, Dutch snowboarder
Maas and Norwegian former snowboarder Stine Brun Kjeldaas are gay married with a daughter. After she qualified for Sochi, she told a Dutch newspaper: “In the future, the IOC should consider where it wants to organize the Games. They should not do in countries where certain groups are excluded, as is the case in Russia. By choosing Russia the IOC does a step back in time. Russia is living in the past while we look to the future.” After her qualifying event today, she thrust her mitten right into the waiting TV camera. On it? Rainbows and unicorns. Gay as it gets. Take that, Putin!
Barbara Jezersek, Slovenian cross country skier
The first thing you need to know about this woman is that Lost Girl‘s Bo Dennis is her Twitter background photo. Olympians, they ship like us! Jezersek has been competing since 2003. Her best finish in the 2013 Vancouver games was 14th in the 4 x 5 km relay. She’s been with her girlfriend since 2005 and they are raising two children together. In a Swedish radio interview in 2012, she said: “Finally, I want to talk about my life because I’m getting tired of hiding and pretending I’m something I’m not. I have to be honest for myself and especially for Filippi [her girlfriend]. I do not know how and when it happened, but suddenly we both realized that everything was different, and that was it.”
Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, Austrian ski Jumper
Iraschko-Stolz’s last name is hyphenated because she and her wife decided to combine their names when they got married. She came out in 2009, saying, “I don’t want to hide myself. I never cared at all what other people think about me.” She was also the first woman to clear the 200-meter jump mark. Way to be a history-maker, Iraschko-Stolz!
Anastasia Bucsis, Canadian speed skater
Bucsis competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and came out in 2013 at Calgary Pride, saying that she is “so proud” to be gay. Why’d she come out on such a high profile stage? “I could never promote that message of concealing who you are with all of this going on in Russia. I’m kind of happy that I did it on my own terms,” she told the crowd.