Photo: (@kzillmann)

Polish athlete Katarzyna Zillmann thanked her girlfriend after securing silver and used her platform to support LGBTQ+ issues.

The Toyko Olympics 2020 has included a record number of out and visible LGBTQ+ athletes and the representation is continuing to grow.

Katarzyna Zillmann, a professional rower competing in the Olympics for Team Poland, used her post-competition interview to thank her girlfriend.

The 26-year-old, who is lesbian, addressed that this wasn’t the first time she had spoken out about LGBTQ+ topics and issues on Polish state TV.

“The conversations with you after the medal race were not groundbreaking for me,” she said. “I’ve already talked about it in interviews before, but for some reason, it wasn’t published.”

The Polish athlete elaborated on her hopes to support LGBTQ+ people and athletes by speaking out and using her platform.

“I know that in this way I will help others,” Zillmann said. “It was enough that I showed up in a T-shirt with the words ‘Sport against homophobia’ and I got a few messages from young girls practising rowing.

“One of them opened up to me, described her difficult home situation to me, and confessed that I helped her a lot with my attitude. One such message is enough to completely forget about thousands of hate comments and disgusted faces.”

Zillmann’s choice to speak in favour of LGBTQ+ visibility is particularly striking once you consider Poland’s track record of anti-LGBTQ+ regulations such as their LGBTQ+ free zones, which has been implemented in more than 100 regions in Poland.

The “LGBT-free” zones came to fruition after the country’s ruling Law and Justice Party inspired several towns in Poland to be free from “LGBT ideology” – putting vulnerable LGBTQ+ citizens at risk of discrimination, prejudice and violence. 

Related: Team LGBTQ: Every openly queer athlete competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games