By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
As the parade of nations marches into the opening ceremonies of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. Team USA will be led by curler John Shuster and openly gay speedskater, Brittany Bowe. The flagbearer was originally bobsledder Elana Meyers-Taylor who had to back out after testing positive for Covid-19, as Bowe, being the first alternate will now take her place.
“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to lead Team U.S.A. into the opening ceremony,” Bowe said in a statement on the team’s website. “Taking on this responsibility is the honor of a lifetime, and I will proudly carry the American flag on behalf of Elana, her family and all of Team U.S.A.”
Bowe is the first openly LGBTQ+ athlete to carry their nation’s flag at the Winter Olympics and the second LGBTQ+ athlete to carry their nations flag at the Olympics (summer or winter) after basketball player Sue Bird carried Team USA’s flag into the opening ceremonies at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
‘An important display of LGBTQ+ athlete activism and message of championing LGBTQ+ sports equality from the USA Team with Brittany Bowe, the first publicly out LGBTQ+ athlete to earn a spot on Team USA to serve as flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. This is an amazing display of LGBTQ+ visibility which will send a strong message to China that you can’t silence LGBTQ+ athletes and a statement of solidarity with the Asian LGBTQ+ community of allyship in action from the west’ – Amazin LeThi
While Brittany Bowe has never officially “come out” she has been very open on social media and through media appearances around her relationship with fellow Speedskater Manon Kamminga. Bowe has not declared herself in any label, instead letting her love for Kamminga speak for itself.
“It’s nice being with somebody that has the same passion, same drive, same goals,” She expressed in an interview with NBC in 2017. ” It’s obviously difficult living on different sides of the world. But we’re both focused on our goal. She’s trying to make her team. I’m trying to make my team. So, it just works out.”
A few weeks prior during the US Olympic trials for speedskating, Bowe, who had qualified already in her best events, the 1000m and 1500m, also qualified for the 500m ahead of the 500m top ranked athlete, Erin Jackson who had slipped during the race and finished 3rd. Having already qualified for her main events, Bowe ceded her 500m spot to Jackson. With Jackson racing the 500m, Team USA is favored to win a medal in the event.
Even more so, each nation’s Olympic team is guaranteed a certain number of spots available in each event for them to qualify athletes for. However, if they do not use those spots, the nation can return them to be filled by other national teams. This is just the case for the 500m in which Bowe has been named to fill the spot. Allowing both Jackson and Bowe to compete again in the 500m on the Olympic stage.
Brittany Bowe is one of 35 openly LGBTQ+ athletes competing at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, the most to compete at any winter Olympics in history. Opening ceremonies kick off on February 4th, 2022 and the games will run until February 27th.