Every four years, the world turns its attention to the Olympics Games. There, the world’s best athletes compete for a coveted Olympic medal. Among those athletes are many LGBTQ competitors. However, they haven’t always been able to be open about who they are. In fact, some still aren’t. Join us as we celebrate the Olympic athletes—past and present—that identify as members of the LGBTQ community.
Laurel Hubbard – Weightlifting, New Zealand
First up is the pioneering Laurel Hubbard. Competing at the 2020 Summer Olympics—which are actually happening in 2021—the New Zealand weightlifter is the first openly trans athlete to be selected for the Olympic Games.
Laurel Hubbard first competed in international weightlifting in 2017, and went on to win two gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa. The athlete doesn’t give many interviews to the media, and has said, “All you can do is focus on the task at hand.”
Marilyn Agliotti – Field Hockey, The Netherlands
Field hockey player Marilyn Agliotti has actually represented two nations. The South Africa born athlete represented her home country, and then moved to the Netherlands, got a Dutch passport, and also played for the Dutch national team. Impressive!
Even more impressive is that Marilyn Agliotti is a double Olympic gold medal winner. She won her first at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and her second at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Agliotti has commented that the hockey community should be more open.
Matthew Mitcham – Diving, Australia
At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, only 15 out of 10,708 competitors identified as LGBTQ. Out of that 15, only two were gay men. One of those men was Australian diver Matthew Mitcham who received the highest single dive score in Olympic history at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
It’s astonishing—and sad—to think that Matthew Mitchamwas the first openly gay athlete to win Olympic gold. On top of his incredible achievement, Mitcham was also the first Australian man to win gold for diving since 1924.
Tom Daley – Diving, Great Britain
At only 14, British diver Tom Daly was the youngest person from any country to compete in an Olympic final, and the youngest person in the British team at the 2008 Olympics. The athlete specialises in the 10m platform event, where he is a double world champion.
The British press scrutinized Tom Daley when he announced that he was dating a man. Since then, the Olympic athlete turned vlogger has identified as queer, and is married to screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
Nicola Adams – Boxing, Great Britain
When British boxer Nicola Adams retired from professional boxing in 2019, it was with an undefeated record. Amazingly, the star boxer was the first woman to win Olympic gold as an amateur. After that, she doubled up, taking home another gold medal from the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Nicola Adams’ career is full of incredible firsts. She was also the first openly LGBTQ person to win Olympic gold for boxing. Understandably, she was named the most influential LGBTQ person in the UK in 2012.
Eric Radford – Pairs Figure Skating, Canada
From one record breaker to another, Canadian figure skater Eric Radford was the first openly gay man to win gold at the Winter Olympics. He did so alongside his skating partner, Meagan Duhamel, at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. They were one of the oldest Olympic champions in their sport, and also the first to land several complicated moves.
At these games, held in Pyeongchang, there were 16 out LGBTQ athletes. The gay men that competed were the first in the history of the Winter Olympics.
Marnie McBean – Rower, Canada
What’s better than one or two Olympic gold medals? Well, three of course. That’s what Canadian rower Marnie McBean has displayed proudly on her mantelpiece (we imagine). McBean first competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, and won two gold medals.
She then returned for the 1996 games and took home another gold, as well as a bronze medal. Marnie McBean came out after she retired. She is now married and has a daughter with Deanah Shelly.
Tom Waddell – Decathlon, USA
American doctor Tom Waddell competed at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Waddell was adopted by two vaudeville acrobats, who encouraged him to take up gymnastics. After protesting being sent to Vietnam as a doctor, Waddell discovered the US were sending him to train for the decathlon. He placed sixth.
Tom Waddell founded the Gay Olympics in 1982. However, after being sued by the Olympics themselves, he changed his organization’s name to the Gay Games. Held every four years, the games are still ongoing.
Robert Dover – Equestrian, USA
Jewish rider Robert Dover was given a horse for his Bar Mitzvah. At 19 years old he started to specialize in dressage, and in 1984 he competed in his first Olympic Games. After that, the American rider competed in every single summer games between 1984-2004.
When Robert Dover game out in 1984, he was the first openly gay Olympic athlete. The star competitor has said, “My memories of the Games and of the entire Olympic experience are, to me, everything.”
Sofía Mulánovich – Surfing, Peru
The amazing Sofía Mulánovich is another LGBTQ athlete with a pocket full of firsts. The surfer is the first Peruvian to ever win at the World Surf League World Championship, and the first Latin American to win the World Title.
Sofía Mulánovich will be competing in the 2020 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo in 2021. Interestingly, this year’s games will have at least 163 athletes that openly identify as LGBTQ. This is more than all previous summer Olympics combined.
Moran Samuel – Rowing, Israel
Lesbian rower Moran Samuel has an absolutely incredible resume. The athlete started off playing on the Israeli women’s national basketball team, but had to stop when she became paralyzed in her lower body in 2006. From there, she retrained as a physical therapist and helped to re-establish the Israeli women’s wheelchair basketball team.
Amazingly, after that, Moran Samuel started training as a rower. She represented Israel at the 2012 London Olympics, and will be competing in the 2020 games in Tokyo.
Anastasia Bucsis – Speed Skating, Canada
Olympic speed skater Anastasia Bucsis has dedicated time and effort to combating homophobia in sport. The Canadian skater competed at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and then at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
During these games, Russia’s stance towards LGBTQ rights were a concern. The year prior, in response to these laws, Anastasia Bucsis came out publicly, and was the only North American athlete that did so. The athlete features in Standing on the Line, a documentary about homophobia in sport.
Ireen Wüst, Speed Skating, the Netherlands
Bisexual Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst was the most decorated athlete at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. She is also the youngest Dutch Olympic gold medalist in the history of the Winter Games, winning her first gold at 19 years old. Wüst has competed at four Olympic Games.
But that’s not all! This amazing competitor has a whopping 11 Olympic medals, which is more than anyone else in her sport. All this makes Ireen Wüst the most successful Dutch athlete to ever compete in the games.
Quinn – Soccer, Canada
Another pioneering Olympic athlete is Quinn, who will be competing at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The trans, non-binary athlete is a mid-fielder for the Canadian women’s soccer team. In fact, they were the highest drafted player in league history back in 2018.
Quinn has represented their country at multiple competitions, including the 2016 Summer Olympics where they took home bronze. The soccer player came out in 2020, and expressed disappointment when the media deadnamed them repeatedly.
Michaela Walsh – Boxing, Ireland
Next we have amateur boxer Michaela Walsh, from Northern Ireland. Athletes from this region can compete for Great Britain or Ireland, and both Walsh and her brother Aidan are part of the Irish team. The Walsh siblings will be competing at the postponed Summer 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Michaela Walsh missed out on a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in a match against fellow LGBTQ boxer Nicola Adams. She has competed in both featherweight and flyweight categories.
Fernanda Pinilla – Soccer, Chile
Another Tokyo 2020 competitor that identifies at LGBTQ is Chilean soccer player Fernanda Pinilla. The athlete plays for Club Universidad de Chile, and the country’s national team. Pinilla represented her country at the 2010 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Like many other LGBTQ athletes, Fernanda Pinilla has been outspoken about homophobia and equal rights. The star has said of her home country, “I’m a lesbian and feminist, in Chile I cannot marry nor adopt.” Interested in social activism, the competitor is definitely one to watch out for.
Sue Bird – Basketball, USA
One of the more well-known LGBTQ Olympic athletes has got to be Sue Bird. The basketball player is the oldest person in the WNBA, and one of the best players they’ve ever seen. Altogether, Bird has won four WNBA championships, four World Cups, and four Olympic gold medals. Wow!
Sue Bird’s fiancé is fellow Olympian Megan Rapinoe—that’s a lot of talent in one relationship! Bird came out as a lesbian in 2017, announcing her relationship with Rapinoe.
Lee Pearson – Equestrian, Great Britain
Be prepared to be impressed, because equestrian Lee Pearson has 11 Paralympic gold medals. The British public first met Pearson when he was awarded a Children of Courage medal based on his congenital joint condition. After being inspired by the 1996 games in Atlanta, Pearson turned professional equestrian.
Lee Pearson won Olympic gold at the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Paralympics. The athlete runs his own yard where he trains future dressage stars. For his achievements, Pearson was honored by Queen Elizabeth.
Jen Armbruster – Goalball, US
Taiwan born goalball player Jen Armbruster started to lose her vision at 14. Despite this, she kept playing on her school’s basketball team, before becoming legally blind. Goalball is a team sport designed for people with visual impairment. There is no equivalent for able-bodied people, so they are also blindfolded to play.
Jen Armbruster competed in the sport at the 1992 Summer Paralympics in Barcelona when she was just 16 years old. She won gold at the 1008 Paralympics in Beijing.
Seimone Augustus – Basketball, USA
Eight time all-star Seimone Augustus has a seriously impressive basketball career. The member of the US national basketball team won Olympic gold at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer games. That’s no surprise, considering she was the country’s top senior women’s basketball player during her final year of college.
Seimone Augustus announced her retirement in 2021 and has since joined the coaching staff of the Los Angeles Sparks. The star basketball player identifies as a lesbian.
Adam Rippon – Figure Skating, USA
Next we turn to figure skater Adam Rippon, the first out gay man to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. Rippon won the World Junior Championships and US Junior title early in his career, and joined the US Olympic team in 2018.
After winning bronze at the 2018 Olympics, held in South Korea, Rippon joined Dancing with the Stars. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the figure skater had some moves, and ended up winning the show. Adam Rippon announced his retirement in 2018.
Carl Hester – Equestrian, Great Britain
When Carl Hester was 19, he applied to work with therapy horses. From there, riding a horse from work, he won a dressage competition. Just five years later Carl Hester was competing at the World Championships, and then in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics. For these games, Hester was the youngest British rider to ever compete at the Olympics.
More recently, Carl Hester was part of the 2012 London Olympics dressage team, who took home gold. For his work, he was awarded by Queen Elizabeth II.
Katja Nyberg – Handball, Norway
Katja Nyberg grew up with handball. Her father, Robert Nyberg, was the first Finnish handball player to play the sport professionally in another country. While born in Stockholm, Sweden, Katja grew up in Finland, with her father coaching her Helsinki handball team.
Katja Nyberg found that handball wasn’t competitive enough in Finland, so she moved to Sweden, and then Norway. Now a naturalized Norwegian, Nyberg is the proud winner of a gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Monique Burkland Matthews – Sitting Volleyball, USA
Monique Burkland Matthews was an all-state softball player in high school. The athlete lost her leg in a forklift accident at work, but that didn’t stop her. Burkland Matthews is now on the USA sitting volleyball team, and will be competing in the Summer 2020 Olympics.
An accomplished player, Monique Burkland Matthews won Player of the Year in 2015, 2017 and 2019. She won silver at the 2010 Paralympic Games, silver at the 2012 London games, and gold at the 2016 Rio games.
Megan Giglia – Cycling, Great Britain
Megan Giglia worked as a multi-sport coach, coaching rugby and gymnastics. However, after suffering fainting spells she underwent brain surgery and woke up with loss of function on the right side of her body. Eventually, Giglia started researching sports, and eventually settled on para-cycling.
Just one year after her injuries, Megan Giglia was accepted onto the British Cycling Paralympic Development program. Now, she’s a double world champion and Olympic athlete. On the first day of the Rio games, Giglia won a gold medal.
Belle Brockhoff – Snowboarding, Australia
Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff was one of seven openly gay women who competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Brockhoff came out in 2013, and supported the campaign protesting Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws. She features in the documentary about the subject, To Russia with Love.
During the Olympics, Pride Houses are set up for LGBTQ athletes, volunteers and visitors. For the 2014 Sochi games, Russia would not allow any Pride Houses. In response, the Russian LGBT Sport Federation hosted an event.
Rikke Skov – Handball, Denmark
Danish handball player Rikke Skov represented her country at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The athlete joined Viborg HK when she was just a teenager, and stayed with it until her retirement from professional sport.
Rikke Skov’s team won the Champions League three times, as well as seven Danish Championships. At the 2004 Olympics, Skov won a gold medal. At the following games, she was team captain. Skov has had both male and female partners, include teammate Lotte Kiærskou.
Cindy Ouellet – Wheelchair Basketball, Canada
As a child, Canadian Cindy Ouellet dreamed of becoming a soccer player or a skier. However, being diagnosed with bone cancer at just 12 years old put an end to those plans. Thankfully, Ouellet was open to other sports, and took up wheelchair basketball.
Cindy Ouellet made her Olympic debut at the 2008 games in Beijing, and then returned for the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The multi-talented Ouellet is studying for a PhD and plays multiple musical instruments.
Regina George, Sprinter, Nigeria
The wonderfully named Regina George grew up with sprinting all around her. Her Nigerian father moved to the USA with an athletic scholarship, and her Venezuelan mom was also a 400m sprinter. At nine years old, George could run a mile in 6:13 seconds.
Though she was born in Chicago, Regina George represents her father’s home country. She represented Nigeria at the 2012 Summer Olympics, winning her heat. Regina George is in a long term relationship with American track and field athlete Inika McPherson.
Ian Thorpe – Swimming, Australia
Prepare to be impressed, because swimmer Ian Thorpe has more gold Olympic medals than any other Australian. The athlete has five Olympic golds in total, winning three at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. At those games, he was the most successful athlete.
It’s no surprise really, considering Ian Thorpe was the youngest male to ever represent his country, and the youngest ever World Champion. The incredible athlete has dominated his sport at all major competitions. Thorpe came out as gay in 2014.
Abby Dunkin – Wheelchair Basketball, USA
Wheelchair basketball first came about in the mid ‘40s, and was often played by disabled World War II veterans. One of its stars is American athlete Abby Dunkin, who represented her country at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Brazil.
Abby Dunkin was an athletic child who played basketball and had a black belt in martial arts. She was diagnosed with a brain disorder at 13, but kept playing through the pain. Eventually, Dunkin trained with military veterans to learn wheelchair basketball. Now, she has an Olympic gold medal.
Karen Hultzer – Archery, South Africa
The London 2012 Olympic Games were the first games to include a commitment to diversity. Despite this, only 23 out of over 10,000 competitors were openly members of the LGBTQ community.
South African archer Karen Hultzer actually came out during her event at these games. She said, “I am an archer, middle aged and a lesbian. I am also cranky before my first cup of coffee. None of these aspects define who I am, they are simply part of me.”
Sheryl Swoopes – Basketball, USA
Basketballer Sheryl Swoopes was the first player to be signed to the WNBA, and considered one of the league’s best ever players. The athlete is also one of ten women in her sport in possession of an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA Championship, and a WNBA title.
Sheryl Swoopes competed with the US national team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The star athlete came out in 2005, and has had male and female partners. She has said, “I can’t help who I fall in love with.”
Diana Taurasi – Basketball, USA
Dubbed “the White Mamba” by Kobe Bryant, basketball player Diana Taurasi is one of her sport’s greatest players of all time. In 2004, the athlete was part of Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Athens. The team took home the gold medal, and returned for the 2008 games in Beijing, where they won gold again.
Diana Taurasi represented the USA at the 2012 Olympics, where she won her third Olympic gold medal. In Rio in 2016, she landed her fourth. Taurasi is married to former teammate Penny Taylor.
Megan Rapinoe – Soccer, USA
Last but certainly not least is the superb Megan Rapinoe. The captain of the US national team, the soccer player took home the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. At these games, Rapinoe was the first player ever—male or female—to score a goal directly from a corner at the Olympics.
The soccer star represents numerous LGBTQ organizations, and co-founded a gender neutral lifestyle brand. Megan Rapinoe publicly came out in 2012. She is engaged to fellow Olympic athlete Sue Bird.