(Photo: AP Images / Darron Cummings)
Brian Boitano, a former Olympic gold medalist figure skater and a current member of the U.S. delegation heading to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, announced Thursday that he is gay.
"I am many things: a son, a brother, and uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am," Boitano said in a statement. The professional figure skater competed in the 1988 Olympic Games, where he won the figure skating Gold Medal.
"First and foremost I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance. As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations." Boitano also became the World Champion in figure skating in 1986 and 1988, and the U.S. National Champion from 1985 to 1988.
Boitano's announcement of his sexuality comes two days after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the country's delegation for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Along with Boitano, two other members of this year's delegation, including tennis great Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow, are openly gay. Many have argued the White House's selection of openly gay athletes serves as a slight to Russia's President Vladimir Putin and the country's ban on spreading homosexual propaganda to minors, passed in June.
President Obama said in a statement released by the White House that the selected Olympic delegation "represents the diversity that is the United States."
"Our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism, and sports. We are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games."
In addition to the openly gay delegation, several media outlets have stipulated that perhaps another snub by the U.S. toward Russia is the fact that the president, the first lady, the vice president, or a current cabinet secretary will not be in attendance at the games' opening ceremony. This is the first time since 2000 that none of these high-ranking U.S. leaders have been present at an Olympic opening ceremony.
The White House has blamed Obama's absence on a scheduling conflict the forces him to stay in Washington when the games begin on February 7.
The International Olympic Committee has previously released a statement saying that after a visiting Sochi back in September, they were "fully satisfied" with Russia's laws regarding homosexuality and found the country did not break the Olympic Charter's discrimination clause. Russia has also reiterated that its ban on homosexual propaganda to minors is meant to protect younger generations of Russians and will not affect any adult homosexual visiting the country.