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Out Olympian Paul Poirier wants to change narratives around sports and inspire LGBTQ people to be their true selves

Poirier talks with Outsports about merging part of his personal and professional lives. Up next is the World Championships.

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Skate Canada
Paul Poirier has had two top-10 finishes at the Winter Olympics Games.
Photo by Matthew Stockman - International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images

Paul Poirier came out publicly as gay last year, and then competed in the Beijing Winter Olympics, his second Olympic Games.

He and ice dance partner Piper Gilles, dressed in stunning orange-and-rainbow outfits for their rhythm dance program, left a memorable impression on many viewers.

On the latest episode of Outsports’ Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, Poirier talks about his time in Beijing, as well as coming out publicly just months before he took to the ice at the Winter Olympics. He hopes his being publicly out on the world stage inspires others to do so, and opens more conversations about LGBTQ people in sports.

“We need to continuously change our narratives around sports and who belongs where,” Poirier said. “I think we still like to put people in boxes, and we like to put sports and activities in boxes, and who belongs where. And I don’t think we need to.”

Part of that is seeing people across the LGBTQ community, like Poirier, sharing their stories publicly. It’s not always easy.

“We as athletes in general, we’re always juggling having a public self and a personal self,” he said. “Some people are really good at integrating those two things, and some people have a big separation.

“As queer people I think it’s very natural to make that separation, especially when we’re young, and a lot of that comes from a fear of judgment or losing out on opportunities or that it might change people’s perceptions of us.”

Some of that fear is dissipating for many LGBTQ athletes, he said, as cultural acceptance builds and more trailblazers come out publicly in sports, accelerating that change. It’s reflected in the number of out athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics — at least 36, more than double the number just four years earlier.

As for the Olympics, Poirier and Gilles finished fourth with Canada in the team event and seventh in the ice dance competition.

Next up is the World Championships this month. Then they will skate professionally for a while away from the judging and scored competitions, even while Poirier keeps a third Olympics in his sights.

Poirier is also looking forward to traveling with his partner — they during the COVID pandemic — without pandemic restrictions tying them down.

You can listen to the conversation with Olympian Paul Poirier 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 Paul Poirier on Instagram and Twitter.