When I first talked with Callan Chythlook-Sifsof in 2009, she was headed toward her first Winter Olympic Games and was interested in coming out publicly. The snowboarder was going to be the first Indigenous Alaskan to represent the United States in the Olympics, and she wanted to compete out and proud in Vancouver.
It didn’t work out that way, and Chythlook-Sifsof came out publicly during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, in response to Russian laws that forbade public demonstrations of homosexuality.
Chythlook-Sifsof (which she says is phonetic, pronounced just like it looks) talks with me on this week’s Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast about all of that, also reminiscing about her first girlfriend, who was a snowboarder from Switzerland she faced in competition. She talks about that unique relationship and how they were both supporters and competitors.
“Having a relationship with a fellow competitor was good for my snowboarding,” she says.
Plus she shares her experiences with the discrimination she has faced both in her sport — dominated by White athletes — and in the Salt Lake City area, where she has trained and coached and spent so much time.
She has a lot of hope for the future, given how much change she has seen in people over the last five years in regards to LGBTQ acceptance, and over the last few months in regards to race.
“I can count 10 different people that have a different narrative on race than they did last year,” she said, “White people that have a different way of discussing race, a different language they’re using, and it’s really positive for me and it makes me feel really good as a person of color to have more recognition of the issues.”
You can listen to the conversation with Callan Chythlook-Sifsof on the Megaphone player, or by visiting Spotify for an easy browser player. Five Rings To Rule Them All is also available on Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.
And be sure to follow Five Rings To Rule Them All on Twitter.
You can follow Callan Chythlook-Sifsof on Instagram @CallanTheGreat.