Rut Castillo is a two-way standard bearer. She is the only out Olympic athlete born in Mexico, and also the only out rhythmic gymnast.
And she’s winning our hearts along the way.
Castillo finished 22nd in rhythmic gymnastics Friday, scoring 82.7 points. While she didn’t medal, it was still an impressive effort, especially considering her path to Tokyo.
Mexican gymnasts don’t often enjoy the same resources as their American counterparts, making it difficult to compete on the world’s stage. Castillo initially lacked a trainer herself leading up to Tokyo, according to the Wall Street Journal.
When she finally did connect with a trainer, they had to practice over Zoom, due to Covid-19 restrictions.
On top of that, she was recovering from a serious back injury. But none of those obstacles stopped her.
Castillo took up gymnastics at six years old, and now, as a 30-year-old woman, she wasn’t going to let difficult circumstances stop her from becoming the first Mexican rhythmic gymnast to qualify for the Olympic Games. As she walked out to the floor for her Olympic debut, Tom Holkenborg’s “Never Give Up” blared from the loudspeakers.
The track from the movie “Tomb Raider” speaks to her resilience.
“I wanted something strong,” Castillo told the WSJ. “It’s taken a whole life of effort to get here.”
Castillo is also one of two out LGBTQ athletes representing Mexico, though softball player Anissa Urtez was born in the U.S.
A lifelong resident of Mexico, Castillo is open about her sexuality on social media, often posting spontaneous shots with her girlfriend.
In a country where fans of the men’s national soccer team are notorious for chanting anti-gay slurs, that’s no small feat.
After Friday’s competition, Castillo was ambiguous about her athletic future. She told the WSJ “wasn’t ready to say good-bye” to gymnastics, and that she was always chasing liberty.
Castillo, who was born on Mexican Independence Day, has the word “Libertad” tattooed on her arm.
The word translates to “liberty.” That’s Castillo, and every out Olympic athlete, represents: the liberty to be open, out, and proud.