It’s still to be determined if figure skating at the Beijing Games will feature a moment as iconic as Adam Rippon giving the Mutombo Finger Wag to the judges in 2018, here’s one thing we already know they’ll have: a record number of out LGBTQ skaters.
With Team LGBTQ’s figure skating roster in Beijing numbering nine (one additional skater is a reserve), we spoke to out gay skater Christopher Caluza — a U.S. figure skating national competitor and three-time Philippine national champion — to get a sense of what to expect when the competitions begin. As you’d expect, he was ebullient over the number of fellow LGBTQ athletes competing in Beijing.
“I think it’s amazing!” Caluza exclaimed, “Representation actually does matter, especially to those who are still to this day afraid of coming out. It takes a big responsibility for people like us to show these people that it is OK to be who you are.”
In Beijing, Team LGBTQ Figure Skating will also be breaking barriers through the presence of Timothy LeDuc, the first publicly out non-binary athlete to compete in an Olympic Games. Their presence on Team USA made Caluza especially proud and he emphasized how big a deal LeDuc is within the community of LGBTQ skaters.
“There are kids who are young,” Caluza said. “They’re questioning themselves and they don’t know what they’re going to go through. But if we have someone like Tim who’s out there right now representing us, showing the world that we can kick butt, and they can kick butt especially, it’s just important.”
Although he highlighted how hard it is to predict ice dancing given the subjective nature of judging and every competitor emphasizing their own individual style, Caluza said that LeDuc and their partner Ashley Cain-Gribble could potentially finish in the top six with an outside shot at a medal.
A top medal contender in Beijing is France’s Guillaume Cizeron, who earned a silver medal with partner Gabriella Papadakis at the 2018 Games. When asked if Cizeron has a shot at gold in Beijing, Caluza said: “Absolutely. He’s a European champion [and] a world champion.”
Leading into the Games, Cizeron has also been part of a group of ice dancers training together in Montreal with fellow out Olympians Lewis Gibson (Great Britain) and Paul Poirier (Canada). Although the three will be competing against one another in Beijing, they’ve also formed a tight bond during their practices. As Caluza said, “They are all family together.”
In the individual men’s figure skating event, France’s Kévyn Aymoz, is stepping back onto the ice after missing the entire summer due to a groin injury. “It is hard,” Calzua said, “but he’s been training for a while. He actually recently competed [in] Europeans…if you train for years, you’re always going to put strain on your body and therefore, you’re pretty much prone to any kind of injury.”
During the individual competition, all skaters will be looking to measure themselves against Japan’s formidable two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. Having skated against him in 2019, Caluza reflected on the mentality it took to compete against the gold medalist. After jokingly advising, “Get out of his way,” he offered a look into how to prepare:
“When I saw Yuzuru, he’s just doing his thing. He has his own journey; I have my own journey,” Caluza said. “You can’t really compare your journey to other people as well because it took a lot for him to get to where he is. It took a lot for me in my own way to get to where I am. And not a lot of people understand that every skater has their own deal.”
According to Caluza, the women’s singles competition figures to be something to behold.
“Watch the ladies,” he advised, “especially [the skaters] from Russia. They’re doing things that not a lot of men can do. They’re doing quadruple jumps…they’re beautiful skaters…oh my goodness, you’re going to be cheering a lot of people on!”
That prediction should hold true for every figure skating event. And if Cizeron, LeDuc, or Aymoz find themselves on the medal podium, LGBTQ fans will be cheering the loudest of all.