Jorik Hendrickx will represent Belgium in the mens’ figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. He is also publicly and proudly out as a gay man.
The 25-year-old told Outsports he has been out in his private life for four years. While he was out privately when he competed in the Sochi Olympics in 2014, he said he was simply not personally prepared to deal with the anti-LGBT backlash in that country at the time.
“I remember avoiding questions about the gay rights in Russia,” he said. “Not because I was embarrassed, I was just not ready. Now I’m totally fine and happy with the person I am right now.”
Hendrickx finished 16th overall in the men’s figure skating of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
He said he understands the importance of being publicly out because he was inspired by the stories of other gay people — celebrities and the like — sharing their true selves.
“It remains a taboo,” Hendrickx told reporters at a press conference in Pyeonchang earlier this week. ”It should be made available for discussion to a larger audience and I hope to inspire a younger generation to feel more comfortable with someone’s sexual orientation.”
Hendrickx relishes in being out and also being equal to his non-LGBTQ counterparts. He believes there’s no difference in sports between a gay and straight athlete, and both can prosper in his sport of figure skating.
“There is no difference in being a gay or straight athlete,” he said. “Sexual orientation is irrelevant. I think it shouldn’t matter what your sexual orientation is because sport should be about the performances and results. My sexual orientation doesn’t make me more special than any other Olympian. We are one big happy family.”
Incidentally, his younger sister, Leona, is also representing Belgium in figure skating at these Olympic Games. That’s quite a family!
Ranked 18th by the International Skating Union, Hendrickx is currently scheduled to skate 17th in the short program to kick off the competition. It will be broadcast on NBC in prime time Thursday night.