Out gay speed skater Blake Skjellerup has missed out on qualifying for the Winter Olympic Games, falling short on an automatic bid for the 500-meter race by one spot. While 32 automatic bids were handed out for the distance, Skjellerup finished 33rd.
Skjellerup, who was poised to become the first publicly out gay male competitor in Winter Olympics history, competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics before coming out publicly. He finished 16th in the 1000-meter in Vancouver. As of now, there will be no publicly out male athletes competing in Sochi.
There is still a chance for Skjellerup to get to Sochi. Because he finished 33rd in the world rankings of the 500-meter, he is the first alternate for the Olympic Games. That means if any of the qualifying nations choose not to send a skater for their qualifying spot, Skjellerup would be the next in line. Officials at US Speed Skating said he has a long shot at the 1000-meter, but that is a distant long shot as he is the fifth or sixth alternate.
It's certainly a disappointment for him and his fans. Skjellerup had the potential to represent the entire LGBT community at the Olympics in a nation that is cracking down on LGBT rights. There are some out female athletes, but no one has the public profile Skjellerup has; Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst is as close as they come, but she refuses to discuss being a lesbian past her initial interview and was upset that her sexual orientation was a story in Vancouver.
Skjellerup did compete as an openly gay man in Russia for the final leg of the Speed Skating World Cup last month. The Russian government knew he was openly gay, as did the Ministry of Sport, and he was allowed to compete without -- as far as we know -- any incident; We can confirm that Skjellerup returned from Russia safely.
Now Skjellerup and the LGBT community will hold out hope now that one spot in the 500-meter opens up. It's possible, but we're not sure how possible. At this point, chances are that Skjellerup will not be on the track in Sochi. We will know in January if he will replace another skater; Nations have until Jan. 10, 2014, to notify the International Skating Union if they will not be sending an athlete.
We love you, Blake! Thank you for representing us so proudly in the World Cup and beyond!
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