Update August 6: The Olympic marathon has been moved up to 6am local time, and Cooke will be running, representing Ireland and Team LGBTQ.

Update April 26: Aoife Cooke has qualified for the Summer Olympic Games and will represent Ireland in the marathon in Tokyo.

Original post:

Aoife Cooke (said: EE-fuh) is an Irish national marathon champion. She’s publicly out. And now she is aiming for a spot in the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

She’s got a real shot at it.

On the latest episode of Five Rings To Rule Them All, Cooke talks about the steps along her journey and what it will take for her to compete in Tokyo this summer. She has a big test in just a few weeks.

Cooke says she came out when she was 18 before she was an elite, Olympic-level athlete. She’s been out since she competed for Arkansas Tech, a Division II school in The Natural State, so she’s always just been out while emerging onto the international scene.

Today she sees the value of being visible for younger LGBTQ athletes hoping to one day reach the Olympics and be accepted for who they are.

She says she has experienced absolutely

“It’s like a little community itself,” she says of people in the marathon world, “and you can just be yourself.”

We also talk about the changes she has seen in Ireland, which was for so long a deeply conservative Catholic country but whose electorate overwhelmingly approved of legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015.

“It just shows how accepting the Irish people are now,” she says.

You can listen to the conversation with Irish national marathon champion Aoife Cooke on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast on Megaphone, Spotify, 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 Aoife on Instagram.