South Africans among more than 40 LGBT athletes at Rio Olympics

British diver Tom Daley

British diver Tom Daley (Instagram)

The Rio Olympic Games has already shattered one world record, before it’s even started.

It’s been reported that at least 41 openly-LGBT athletes will be competing in the event – the most ever documented.

The athletes come primarily from a host of European countries, as well as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.

They will compete in sports as diverse as boxing, equestrian, field hockey, gymnastics, rowing and soccer, to mention just a few.

More than half, around 30, are women, suggesting that homosexuality remains very much a taboo in the often macho male sporting world.

Some are well known, such as Britain’s sex symbol diver Tom Daley. While many have been out for some time, US women’s Olympic basketball team player Elena Delle Donne has only just come out as lesbian.

At least four, Ian Matos (diving); Júlia Vasconcelos (taekwondo); Mayssa Pessoa (handball); and Larissa França (volleyball), are representing the host nation of Brazil.

South Africa's Sunette Stella Viljoen

South Africa’s Sunette Stella Viljoen (Facebook)

There are only two openly-LGBT African Olympians in 2016. That’s javelin champion Sunette Stella Viljoen and runner Caster Semenya, both from South Africa.

Viljoen came out in 2013 on Facebook after revealing that she had been ostracised by many of her friends and family when she fell in love with a woman.

She wrote at the time that she “suspected the choice I made would be a difficult road, but not in my wildest dreams did I ever thought it would be such an uphill battle”.

The 32-year-old has previously won gold at the Commonwealth Games and African Championships. In 2012, she came fourth at the London Olympic Games.

Semenya, 25, made global headlines in 2009 when she won the 800 metres at the Berlin Athletics World Championships and then became the subject of investigations, medical tests and brutal and humiliating speculation about her gender and sex.

The IAAF has never released the results of its tests but in July 2010 gave Semenya the all-clear to compete as a woman. She went on to win the silver medal in the 800m at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

In December last year, Semenya took her long-term relationship with fellow runner Violet Raseboya to the next level in a traditional ceremony that was described as both an engagement and a wedding.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend