The Netherlands' Ireen Wüst, who won her third career gold medal in speedskating earlier this morning, is one of the few openly gay athletes at the 2014 Sochi Games. Wüst's win in the 3000-meter women's speedskating event means that she has now scored a top prize in three consecutive Winter Olympics going back to 2006 in Turin. Observers and fans are rightly happy for her.
It's both natural and obvious to place Wüst's triumph against the political backdrop of the Sochi Games, which have been colored by the international outrage over Russia's anti-gay discriminatory policies. However, in past interviews Wüst expressed ambivalence about the idea that her sexual identity might overshadow another constituent part of her life—the part in which she is an Olympic athlete with storied career.
Wüst reportedly first came out just months before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Shortly after, when asked whether her sexual identity was an important detail in the narrative, Wüst pushed back:
“I want to talk about ice skating. You are not asking [fellow Olympian] Sven Kramer about how his relationship is going. So why would you ask me? If I would’ve had a relationship with a guy, you wouldn’t have asked me either.”
Given the energy devoted to the issue of gay rights in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Games, it'd be interesting to know if she's changed her answer. With intolerance in the spotlight, Wüst's embrace of the Olympic legacy of political defiance would make for a powerful moment. Until that happens, it only seems appropriate to celebrate Wüst for what she is today: an Olympic champion.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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