There will be at least 28 out LGBTQ+ athletes taking part in the Tokyo Summer Paralympics – more than double the number who competed in Rio.
Although the figure is by no means definitive as there are likely more Paralympians who are not yet out to the public, there are at least a dozen sports and eight countries represented by LGBTQ+ athletes this year.
In Rio’s 2016 Paralympic Games, there were 12 athletes competing – making this figure a new record when it comes to representation.
It comes after a record-setting Tokyo Summer Games, which saw at least 185 LGBTQ+ Olympians compete (triple the number of those at Rio).
In a statement, Lauren Appelbaum of RespectAbility, a nonprofit that works to change how society views people with disabilities, said: “We hope that even more out athletes participate in the future, as it is critical for all disabled people to have positive role models for success.”
The vast majority of the LGBTQ+ Paralympians competing are women, with there being only one man – Team GB dressage rider Sir David Lee Pearson – on the list.
He is a highly decorated para-equestrian who has won gold 11 times at the Paralympics and is a strong contender to win big this year.
Great Britain’s women’s wheelchair basketball team includes four LGBTQ+ athletes – Jude Hamer, Robyn Love, Lucy Robinson and Laurie Williams.
Robinson and Williams got engaged in February 2020 after being together for more than six years.
At least three non-binary or neural athletes will also be taking part: Australian track and field competitors Robyn Lambird and Maz Strong, as well as American rower Laura Goodkind.
In a moving Instagram post in November 2020, triathlete Hailey Danz, who will also represent Team USA, came out as gay.
“I know there are a lot of people who say that sexuality has no place in sport; that the press should stop sensationalizing who we love and simply focus on the game,” she wrote. “To those people let me say this: it was by seeing openly gay athletes that I’ve been able to work through my shame and insecurities and accept who I am.”
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Countries with multiple out athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics include the United States (9), Great Britain (8), Canada (3), Australia (2) and Brazil (2).
The Paralympics will welcome more than 3,500 athletes from at least 134 nations this year, making it the largest sporting event in the world for people with disabilities.
Those taking part will compete in a total of 540 events across 22 sports, with badminton and Takewondo being included for the first time.