GT Olympic cover star blasts rising Russian homophobia
Gay Olympian says he won’t change who he is to fit with Russian anti-gay rules
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Former GT cover star Blake Skjellerup has criticised Russia's anti-gay laws in an interview with Sky news - but cautioned against a boycott.
He told their breakfast programme: "I think that my presence, and the world's presence in Sochi, if we come together and are united on this issue will bring greater awareness to it, and greater education, not only to the Russian people but also to the Russian government."
He called for athletes to attend the games in a show of support for LGBT rights.
"I am going to the Olympics because I believe in the power of visibility", adding: "the world is standing up to this, and is standing up for the LGBT people of Russia - to show them that we are with them and that we do not support their government’s new and recent legislation".
Russia’s anti-gay laws have met widespread criticism in recent weeks. The situation for LGBT people in the country has been escalating rapidly, with reports of state-sanctioned attacks, “corrective” rapes, and murders.
But Blake says he won't be changing: "I'm not going to change the person that I am just for the sake of some rules existing in one country."
Of the 14,690 athletes who competed in London 2012, just 23 were openly gay.
Blake has previously taken to the cover of GT to speak out against Russia’s homophobic laws.
“I hope I can bring some positive change to Russia to overcome their LGBT discrimination”, he told us, insisting: “I’m not going to go to Russia and change the person I am.”
Blake, who didn’t come out until he was 22, told GT of his fears about being gay in the Olympics: “In my view, sportsmen who haven’t [come out] don’t feel safe in their environment and are afraid their sexuality might jeopardize their position in their most important thing to them.”
At the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada – a country that recognizes same-sex marriages – Blake spoke of meeting many gay athletes, but they weren’t competing in the Olympics.
“That trip inspired me to want to share my story… I wanted young people to see you can be gay in sport and achieve all you wanted to achieve, as long as you’re open and true to yourself.”
To read Blake Skjellerup’s full interview, you can download it from past issues on iTunes, or get a subscription here..
Words: Benjamin Butterworth / Original interview: John Marrs