Be­ing out in spot­light ‘all be­comes worth it’ PYEONGCHANG 2018

Rad­ford rst openly gay man to win Olympic gold

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - Sports -

Among the mes­sages Eric Rad­ford has re­ceived at the Pyeongchang Olympics is one from a mother from his tiny home­town of Balmer­town, Ont.

“She told me her daugh­ter had come out to her, and she wanted to thank me for set­ting a great ex­am­ple,’’ Rad­ford said.

The pairs fig­ure skater be­came the first openly gay man to win Olympic gold in Mon­day’s team event. And if he’s ever ques­tioned his de­ci­sion to come out af­ter Sochi, it’s those raw and hon­est mes­sages that make Rad­ford proud.

“I have had some re­ally touch­ing mes­sages from peo­ple who are still in the closet, and they said that I’ve re­ally in­spired them, and helped them to try to ac­cept them­selves more ... that’s in­cred­i­ble,’’ Rad­ford said.

“I look at my own story. When I was a kid in a small town grow­ing up, fig­ure skater, hockey town, it sucked. It was hard. And not only not be­ing ac­cepted by other peo­ple, but there was a long time where I didn’t ac­cept my­self. And I think that I just look at that, and if I had some­one like that to look up to it would have been eas­ier. And that’s what I want to be to other peo­ple.”

Rad­ford and pairs part­ner Mea­gan Duhamel skated to a bronze medal in the free pro­gram Thurs­day.

Cana­dian swim­mer Mark Tewks­bury came out six years af­ter win­ning gold at the ’92 Barcelona Olympics and sub­se­quently lost a lu­cra­tive mo­ti­va­tional speak­ing con­tract.

“I guess for me it’s a great per­spec­tive-giver,’’ Tewks­bury said of Rad­ford’s gold. “Some­times in my life I might look back and think ‘Oh, I wish I was braver. I wish I could have come out when I won.’ And now I’m like, ‘Oh, I would have been 26 years ahead of my­self.’ No won­der I didn’t. I would have been too far out of sync with time and the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness, and where so­ci­ety was at.

“For me, it is re­ally cool that this has hap­pened. It is a marker in time.’’

Ac­cord­ing to Out­sports, there are 14 openly gay ath­letes in Pyeongchang — seven more than four years ago in Sochi.

“There are so many mo­ments in life, or es­pe­cially in an ath­lete’s life, where you’re won­der­ing if it’s all worth it. And then you step up onto the podium and you’re like, yes. Yes, it was,’’ Rad­ford said. “All the time away from home, cry­ing on the phone to my par­ents, deal­ing with the bul­ly­ing, it all be­comes worth it.

“It’s nice to know that it does all be­come worth it.’’

Grow­ing up, ig­ure skater, hockey town, it sucked. It was hard.

Eric Rad­ford

STEVE RUS­SELL TORSTAR NEWS SER­VICE

Eric Rad­ford and Mea­gan Duhamel won a bronze medal in the pairs free skate on Thurs­day.

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