Eric Radford is leaving Pyeongchang in a very different mindset than how he left Sochi.
Four years ago the Canadian pairs figure skater won a silver medal in the team event, but he and his skating partner, Meagan Duhamel, finished a disappointing seventh in the pairs competition.
This weekend leaves the 2018 Winter Olympics with two more medals, including that elusive pairs podium appearance.
“I feel like I’m part of this fairy tale book that could not have ended more perfectly,” Radford told Outsports from Pyeongchang Saturday night, headed to bed early for his skate in the exhibition gala early Sunday morning.
The week for Radford and Duhamel was a whirlwind. They skated competitively four times — short and free-skate programs in both the team event and the pairs event. Radford’s gold medal in the team event made him the first-ever publicly out gay man to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.
He didn’t realize his performance will forever hold that distinction until he read through his Twitter feed after the competition.
“I think it’s so cool. I feel so proud, and I’m so honored to have accomplished that,” he said. “I’m really happy that my success in my sport is giving me a larger voice.”
Radford now has a complete set of Olympic medals — one gold, one silver and one bronze.
Despite coming out publicly and working with the Canadian Olympic Committee, among others, to further conversations about LGBTQ athletes, at first Radford wasn’t sure he should be making his sexuality an important part of the discussion around his Olympic achievements at these Winter Games.
As he’s received messages from LGBTQ people around the world, he has fully embraced the conversation, talking about his historic medals as an out gay Olympian and sharing his personal life, including his engagement to his fiancé, fellow skater Luis Fenero.
“I had been wondering why are we talking about our sexuality,” Radford said. “But it is important, and it is making a difference. I know that from the messages I’ve received after my success here. As long as there are LGBT youth who are struggling with their own identity and don’t feel safe to be themselves, you need role models and examples not just for them but for everybody else.”
He has used his platform for the last week to talk publicly about being an out gay Olympian in hopes of helping LGBTQ youth and athletes at all levels.
“I think slowly adding to the pool of out athletes helps sexuality become a non issue in sport,” he said. “That we have so many that we don’t need to talk about it. They’re not stand-out people anymore, other than their performance or their ability. I think we’re slowly getting there.”
Since his last competition ended over a week ago, Radford has met with LGBTQ activists in South Korea, where there are virtually no legal protections and same-sex relationships are not recognized.
“It’s still not widely accepted here,” Radford said.
Now retired from competitive figure skating, Radford is looking ahead to several months of international travel and professional skating with Duhamel. They have trips and tours planned for Australia and Japan starting next week.
Oh, and he has that wedding to plan for, currently scheduled for “somewhere in Spain” in the summer of 2019.
He’ll also continue to be a symbol of hope and inclusion for LGBTQ athletes. He wants enough athletes to come out that it’s “so every-day” that it doesn’t make a headline anymore. Until then, his visibility and success will continue to be a source of strength and hope for athletes and non-athletes alike.