Timothy LeDuc could make history and become the first nonbinary winter Olympian, when he and Ashley Cain-Gibble attempt to secure qualification for the games at the US Figure Skating Championships.
Their bid to make it to Beijing in February has captured the imagination of the LGBTIQ community, and LeDuc is already known for breaking down barriers in the sport.
The 31-year-old, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, was the first openly gay athlete to win a gold at the US pairs event in 2019. However, making it onto Team USA would be on a whole different level for LeDuc, who often felt excluded from the sport.
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“They’re going to be the people that don’t understand it or would be very quick to push me back into the box of, you know, they look at me, they see that I have a beard or they look at maybe my physical characteristics and say, ‘You’re a boy; act like a boy. What are you doing?’” they said on the latest episode of NBCLX’s podcast My New Favorite Olympian.
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LeDuc has sadly encountered discrimination and prejudice during his journey within figure skating, and recounted how his sexuality put off a prospective female partner.
“She thought me being gay was going to be a liability,” they said. “It was not an option for her in an otherwise great partnership that that girl and I could have had.”
In a separate incident, he was also told to be “masculine” in order to win a competition.
“'Timothy, go out and show them how masculine you are. That’s how you will win',” LeDuc added.
But the tide turned in their favour when LeDuc linked up with Cain-Gibble in 2016, and the pair have not looked back since.
“When Timothy and I teamed up, we never wanted to be what was looked at as the traditional team,” Cain-Gribble added. “They always had the storyline of the male is super masculine and strong and always just to come in and save the girl who is a wilted little flower and is weak, or it was a full-on love story, where obviously a male and a female fall in love with each other.”
LeDuc is now trying to improve the experiences of upcoming athletes through a mentorship programme ran through the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council.
“We are now trying to pass on that information to the young and up-and-coming skaters, so that they can be even better athletes, so that they can have even better experiences in the sport and maybe they can avoid some of the obstacles that we all faced in the sport, if they get this information ahead of time,” they added.
When looking at the bigger picture in sport, it is notable to see that many athletes have felt comfortable enough to come out as transgender or nonbinary in recent years.
Timothy LeDuc and Ashley Cain-Gibble
Image credit: Getty Images
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard competed in the women’s super-heavyweight 87 kilogram-plus (192 pound-plus) category, while Chelsea Wolfe took part in the Tokyo Games as an alternate on Team USA, and nonbinary Alana Smith took part in the women’s street category as a skateboarder.
Outsports reports that there were at least 186 out LGBTQ athletes at last year’s Summer Games, winning 33 medals between them.
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