Sometimes simply existing in a public sphere, such as sports, is valuable to underserved audiences; Especially ones searching for a figure to latch onto as an inspirational source.
The increased presence of LGBTQ athletes across all levels of sport has provided such opportunities in recent years, but being the role model you didn’t have growing up remains special for many LGBTQ athletes.
British rower and 2020 Olympics hopeful Kyra Edwards is one of those athletes.
“Being in sight, being proud of who I am and not shying away from showing the world who I am is important to me and an important message for anyone who wants to come into rowing or high levels of the sport,” Edwards told The Telegraph. “I’m quite lucky in that in the generation I’m in, I feel like everyone is quite liberal, everyone is open with different sexualities. I don’t know many people for who being gay is an issue.”
But Edwards’ sexuality isn’t the only aspect of herself that speaks to marginalized voices. Her time on the UCLA rowing team coincided with her pursuit of a degree in statistics, a field Edwards describes as “real male-dominated.” Edwards is also mixed race and sees herself as representative of the Black community as well.
“Often a lot of the choices I’ve made have been quite different to people who look like me and maybe have similarities to me,” Edwards told The Telegraph.
“When no one feels like, or looks like, you it can be difficult to try and identify a role model to look up to. But then it doesn’t just have to be one person. For me, Serena Williams is an amazing athlete. She’s an inspiration to me but that doesn’t mean I want to be a professional tennis player. There are aspects that I find really inspiring. I want to take those aspects. Then there are different parts of other people I find inspiring and I take them and that’s okay too… A lot of my motivations are fueled by representing people, supporting people, being part of a team, being part of something bigger than myself.”
Now, Edwards is deep in training to fulfill a dream made at 12 years old: competing in the Olympics. “If I get there in Tokyo as part of the British rowing team I’m going to be so happy,” Edwards elated.
But what makes that journey more special is that Edwards could potentially compete in Tokyo alongside her partner and fellow rower Saskia Budgett. “If both me and my partner Saskia get there on the same team that would be an amazing dream,” Edwards said.
“There are lots of positives to being in a relationship with someone in the same sport as you and there are lots of things that are difficult too. We are both very open, we communicate a lot about how we are feeling, and are really supportive of each other.”
“We don’t dwell too much on the fact that the other person has any part in the reason we didn’t get selected. It feels quite independent. It wasn’t like ‘oh, you took my seat, or my opportunity’. It’s more ‘okay, I didn’t make it and you did,’” Edwards continued. “This is a sport where we can help each other do well. We could be sat in a boat together and helping one another get to the finish line first and get their Olympic seat. I know that if I was sat watching Saskia competing at the Olympics and I wasn’t competing, then I’d still have a smile on my face. We both just want one another to do well.”