Monday, February 12, 2018

Gay Men in US Figure Skating

I get that the US Media is trying to be "progressive" by being so positive and obsessed with Adam Rippon being the "first openly gay US athlete" at the Olympics, but they're acting like this also somehow makes what he's doing on the ice that much more impressive. However, there have been many incredible men in figure skating history who were gay who had AMAZING Olympic Moments. Adam is not doing anything *new* other than coming out BEFORE his career is over. He's doing what he feels he needs to do, and more power to him, but I feel it ignores some of the other fantastic athletes in this sport, and it's overshadowing other amazing athletes at these games (Mirai Nagasu, anyone?)

This is not a knock on Adam - he had an amazing skate last night (judging issues aside). I just can't help but go to youtube and watch some of the ones that came before Adam. They in many ways paved the way. Point being: without the ones that came before, Adam most likely could not have broken down that final barrier. I don't think we'd be seeing him stick his tongue out suggestively at the judges in an Olympic season without the likes of Boitano, Galindo (who did not make it to the Olympics, but certainly deserves credit), Goebel, Savoie, and of course Weir.

I'm not going to list all of them, and since the media is focused on him being the first US man, I'll just share a few of my favorite Olympic moments by known (out) gay men because I think they need a shout out.

Probably most notable is our 1988 Olympic Champion Brian Boitano. If you grew up with skating in the 90's you know who Brian is. Brian only came out in 2014, but I'm fairly certain most fans "knew". It just wasn't something we cared about. As Brian said in a recent interview it is a part of who he is, but it's only a part. He's also a figure skater, chef, etc. The incredibly private Boitano just did not feel the need to share it with the world - until the Olympics were in Russia and President Obama asked him to be a part of the delegation from the US. Brian Boitano's 1988 Olympic Winning Long Program is one of the most iconic programs in modern figure skating. Everything from the music and choreography, to the costume and the permed mullet thing he had going on. It's one of the first images I have whenever Boitano is mentioned.

Boitano would also represent the USA in 1994 and was the only gay skater in US Men's skating on any Olympic team in the 90s.

Team USA's made up for it lately though. In 2002, Timothy Goebel (who would not come out until he announced his engagement just a few years ago), was our "quad king" going into the Salt Lake City games. Like Boitano, Timothy kept his life very private, but unlike Boitano was considered one of the heartthrobs of the Winter Olympics that year (I admit to crushing hard for Timmy!). Goebel would win a bronze medal in those games, and continued through 2006 before retiring and heading full time into university (he majored in mathmatics, what a nerd).

Oh the frosted tip look most guys my age had when we were high school age. What were they thinking. And those curls! Again - leading the way for Adam Rippon who when he was around the same age embraced his crazy curly mop hair (until coach Nikolai Morosov made him use a hair straightener, so much irony there... look at the puns!).

2006 saw Johnny Weir and Matt Savoie represent the rainbow at the Olympics (though "closeted"). The two could not have been more different in style and personality. Savoie was seemingly shy, quiet, and smooth... Johnny Weir was... well.. chances are you know who Johnny Weir has always been. Savoie was robbed by the judges thanks to skaters exploiting loopholes in the [at the time] new judging system. Add to the fact that he was the third ranked US skater and wasn't really known for his consistency and the judges just didn't hold him in the same caliber, but he was and is well loved by fans world-wide. I definitely miss his skating.

I was fortunate enough to see him skate his programs and make the team at the US Nationals in 2006. The night of the exhibition after it was all over we must have been getting ready to head for the airport at the same time because we found ourselves at the hotel baggage hold together. I congratulated him on making the team, he seemed surprised I recognized him, but thanked me. Such a great skater.

Johnny had a rough season going into the Olympics, and then had a rough Olympics. Even though his LP wasn't his best showing, I chose it over The Swan because I couldn't stand the Swan, but Otonal is really the only program of his that I like. So you get it instead of anything better because I can.

Johnny would make the team again in 2010, though he was pretty much on his way out in most fans' minds by then. His main rival for over 4 years had been Evan Lysacek and while Johnny was struggling, Evan was becoming a World Champion and eventual Olympic Champion. Johnny was on the verge of being eclipsed by skaters like teammate Jeremy Abbott (who recently came out as well). Still, he put up a good showing, but it was clear that International Judges were done with his perceived attitude. He went on to commentate the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games when NBC decided he was a better choice than Scott Hamilton.

Johnny got in trouble with animal rights groups leading up to the 2010 games because he dared to wear fur on his costumes. He gave in to pressure and removed the fur before the competition.

A little less controversial, his fellow teammate Jeremy Abbott also skated in Vancouver and did fairly well for himself, though it was the Evan and Plushenko show, Jeremy set himself up to be the leading man for the next Olympic Cycle with his showings in Canada.

Not many options for Olympic footage of Jeremy, probably due to how NBC plays ball, but his short was pretty decent, so we'll go with it.

2014 would see Jeremy lead the US Team, and he didn't have the BEST of times but they weren't really the worst either, and he did manage to help get the team the bronze medal in the first ever team event.

Jeremy was one of two skaters that made the US team that year. The other, Jason Brown, has not come out and confirmed his sexuality one way or the other. Many have speculated, but out of respect for his choice I won't count him among the number that I think he belongs to.

So that brings us to the present. Adam is the first one to actually come out (several years) before competing in the Olympics. Without the US Men that came before him (and this is only those who were in the Olympics in the last 30 years in Men's skating. There are men who skated Ice Dance and Pairs that were not listed...) Adam might not have been able to come out now and be his "true self". That's not to say that the other men were not true to themselves. None of them ever said that they weren't gay, they just never entertained the question. They all had their own styles, some more "flamboyant" than others. That's what's always been so great about this sport. Sure, the judges can favor one style over the other, but at the end of the day - the skater who does their job and pushes the sport wins.

And because I can and I feel that it would be wrong NOT to include him... Here's Rudy Galindo's magical Free Skate in 1996 when he won his US Title.


  1. I just found this from an old bookmark. Why haven't I come here before? Mushing and Figure Skating, yes! Question- how sleep deprived will we be with the Iditarod starting as soon as the Olympics end?

    1. Haha! Well, welcome to my blog! These days I don't blog much about figure skating, but I try to do a bunch about mushing/Iditarod. Kinda fell off pace when I went on vacation at the start of the year. Gotta get back to it.

      Thankfully I haven't lost much sleep over the Olympics. Skating comes on at 4pm and is done no later than 10! lol

    2. That's nice for you. Skating always seemed to start at 10 and end around 12:30 in Ohio. I like all of the Olympics so I wasn't just watching NBCSN.