By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
The 2020 Paralympics began only days ago and Team LGBTQIA+ is representing, with 31 out LGBTQIA+ athletes competing this year, more than double compared to Rio 2016 and they’re not just here to play. As Outsports has tallied, there are at least a dozen sports and 10 countries represented by out athletes and that number is expected to grow as the games proceed. Wheelchair basketball with 11 athletes followed by rowing with five athletes and cycling with four athletes. Other sports represented include Canoe, Equestrian, Goalball, Sitting Volleyball, Swimming, Track and Field, Triathlon, Wheelchair Fencing and Wheelchair Tennis.
Currently, most out athletes are women, with only one gay man participating, Lee Pearson in Dressage and three non-binary athletes, Robyn Lambird and Maz Strong in track and field and Laura Goodkind in rowing.
As the opening ceremonies kicked off, two countries selected LGBTQIA+ flagbearers to lead their countries into the stadium, Israel’s Moran Samuel, and Germany’s Mareike Miller, in rowing and wheelchair basketball, both Paralympic medalists. Samuel competing in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games where she won a bronze medal and Miller also competed in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games where she won a gold and silver medal respectively.
The first medal won by Team LGBTQIA+ goes to Team GB’s Crystal Lane-Wright who competed in track cycling and took home the silver medal in the Women’s pursuit C5. Lane Wright has been a powerhouse in Paralympic cycling since she took home bronze at the Road World Championships in 2011 and competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, where, in the latter, she took home silver in the individual pursuit and bronze in the road race. She won gold at the 2018 Track World Championships in Rio and silver and bronze in the 2018 Road World Championships in Maniago. She is currently married to fellow cyclist Emily Meakin.
As the next weeks fill up with more Paralympic goodness, we are excited to see what comes next for Team LGBTQIA+, stay tuned.