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This gay boxer says winning an Olympic medal gave her the strength to come out

Italy’s Irma Testa won bronze at the Tokyo Games.

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Irma Testa publicly came out this month after winning bronze in Tokyo.
Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Italian boxer Irma Testa is at the pinnacle of her athletic career. With an Olympic medal in hand, she now has the strength to publicly come out.

In a recent interview with the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, Testa, who took home bronze in the women’s featherweight category at Tokyo 2020, says the accolade establishes her as one of the best in her sport. With her reputation secure, Testa says she didn’t see a reason to hold out anymore.

“Many athletes stay silent and hide away for fear of damaging their image,” she said. “For me, too, it was like that up to a few months ago. But that medal in Tokyo has become my shield - now that Irma the athlete is secure, Irma the woman can be sincere.”

That’s well-put, if not downright poetic. While Testa was out in her private life, publicly coming out can impact the lives of other LGBTQ people. Ultimately, that’s why Testa decided to share her true identity.

“There are still too many people discriminated against and this is not good,” she said. “I can’t do much, but I can, by telling the truth about myself, say that nothing is wrong [with being LGBTQ].”

Boxing - Olympics: Day 5
Irma Testa (blue) joins scores of other medal-winning out gay Olympians.
Photo by Frank Franklin - Pool/Getty Images

Amen to that. At least 186 out LGBTQ athletes competed in Tokyo, more than all the previous Summer Olympics combined. If Team LGBTQ were a country (we wish!), they would’ve finished seventh in the medal count.

Testa is one of the best female boxers in the world. Prior to Tokyo, she won gold in the 2019 European Championships. Testa competed in Rio 2016, where she advanced to the quarter-finals.

The number of out female athletes outnumbered men by a 9-to-1 margin, so Testa will have plenty of company if she competes in Paris 2024. Five out female boxers participated in the Tokyo Games: Rashida Ells (U.S.), Kellie Harrington (Ireland), Irish Magno (Philippines), Nesthy Petecio (Philippines) and Michaela Walsh (Ireland).

“Speaking of sexual orientation in the world of sport has a special value, because champions are expected to be perfect,” Testa told VF. “And for many homosexuality is still an imperfection.”

The number of out Olympic champions would beg to differ.

Follow Irma Testa on Instagram.