Last night, Kim Yu-Na's gold medal capped the rise of Brian Orser as one of the world's stellar figure-skating coaches. Outed in 1998 by a partner lawsuit, Orser has since embraced his orientation openly, becoming (among other things) an ambassador for the Outgames. Being out hasn't hurt his recent career -- he remains one of the most accomplished skating figures to come out of Canada, with Hall of Fame memberships added to his eight national titles, world title and two Olympic silvers.
At the 1988 Olympics, during his rivalry with Brian Boitano, Orser was emotionally devastated by losing the gold for the 2nd time -- this time by a fraction of a point. Turning pro after that, he toured on ice for many years, and finally became skating director at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club.
Coaching evidently became his way of lifting that old cloud off his life. He has coached an array of figure-skating talents, and took on Kim Yu-Na in 2006 when she left South Korea in search of a less-pressured venue for training. Observers credit his patience and calming influence as factors in his success with skaters who are struggling with pressure. The way Yu-Na handled it last night is surely due not only to her own strength of spirit, but also to Orser's support.
We pay a lot of attention to the out athletes who win -- but the out coaches and other powerful figures who are indispensable to sports success should get a lot of credit too. Orser figures in a growing tradition of multi-talented gay men who went on contributing to figure-skating after they stopped competing and performing. The list includes Ronnie Robertson (1956 silver medalist who later coached in China) and John Curry (1976 gold medalist who was later an influential choreographer and ice-show producer.)
Last night, Orser's glowing face said it all, as he waited for his victorious pupil to come off the ice amid that roar of acclaim.