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Gay Olympic historian: Known LGBTQ athletes were competing in early 20th Century

Tony Scupham-Bilton has traced LGBTQ Olympic athletes and competitors to the early 1900s.

Germany Free State Prussia Berlin Berlin: Olympic Games 1936 - Sprinting: Helen Stephens at the start of the spring which made for a new world record - 1936- Photographer: Presse-Illustrationen Heinrich Hoffmann- Published by: ‘Berliner Morgenpost’ 0
The known history of LGBTQ Olympians goes back to almost to the start of the modern Olympics, thanks to Tony Scupham-Bilton.
Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Over the last decade, Tony Scupham-Bilton has become the world’s leading expert in LGBTQ-Olympic history. His list of LGBTQ athletes, coaches and others in sports who have participated in the Olympic Games is literally second to none.

On this week’s episode of the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, Scupham-Bilton shares his personal journey through the history of LGBTQ Olympians, as well as some of his favorite athletes and stories he’s encountered along the way.

Among the stories Scupham-Bilton mentions include:

  • Stella Walsh, born Stanisława Walasiewicz, who was a Polish-American track and field athlete and an Olympic 100-meter champion, and who won a silver medal racing in front of Adolf Hitler in 1936
  • Helen Stephens, who won two golds in the 1936 Berlin Olympics
  • Leif Rovsing, the Danish tennis player who fought against a ban by his country to eventually fight for gay inclusion in sports

Best of all may be his retelling of the story of American javelin thrower Marjorie Larney, who got an incredible boost of confidence at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics thanks to an unlikely fellow.

You can listen to the conversation with Tony Scupham-Bilton 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 find Tony Scupham-Bilton on his Queerstory blog. You can also find him on Facebook.