The World Athletics Championships celebrate the event’s 40th anniversary starting August 19 in Budapest, Hungary.
Yes, that Hungary. Viktor Orban’s Hungary. Perhaps the most LGBTQ-unfriendly spot in the European Union/NATO Alliance.
Yet these championships will have at least eight publicly out LGBTQ athletes ready to compete. The lineup includes seven who went to the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021, including a dominant world record holder.
Team USA has two out athletes heading to Budapest.
At USA Track and Field Nationals in Eugene, Ore., last month, she fired a shot heard around the sprinting world in her opening heat of the 100-meter preliminaries. A blistering 10.71-second effort is the second fastest time in the world at 100 meters this season.
“The thing I remember the most is the last time I think I stood here, on this stadium, and I did an interview when I knew I wasn’t ready to do one,” she told NBC Sports. “But now I stand with you again and I’m ready mentally, physically, emotionally, and I’m here to stay.
“I’m not back, I’m better.”
The top adversaries include Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, number one in the world this season in both sprints, and fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who seeks her sixth world championship at 100m.
The other American, middle-distance hopeful Nikki Hiltz, continues to add historic chapters to their story. On Transgender Day of Visibility 2021, Hiltz came out as trans and non-binary. The following year, they made a change with a new coach and a new set of training priorities.
Hiltz came of age in 2023. They wrote USATF history in February with a national indoor title at 1500 meters, the first ever for a trans and non-binary athlete. Hiltz made a late charge to take the national road 1-mile championship in April.
The USATF outdoor championships put an exclamation point on their goal to get to Budapest. They won their first national outdoor title by sweeping past the reigning Olympic 800-meter champ, Athing Mu.
Throughout this season, Hiltz has also used their success and their platform to speak out for trans people amid a rancorous year of anti-trans legislation across the United States. As they were set to run for the national championship at the bid to worlds, Hiltz spotted a trans flag in the stands in Eugene.
“I think there’s so much hate right now, and specifically the bills being passed for trans youth. I just feel like the LGBTQ community needed a win,” they said in a post-race interview with Citius Magazine. “There’s so many things that go through your mind in the race, and for whatever reason that was kind of in the back of my mind.
“I saw that trans flag right when I came out before the race and I saw that person right after the race and give them my bib.”
Others expected to challenge for medals include the former mile record holder and 2019 1500-meter world champion Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands as well as Britain’s Laura Muir, the reigning Commonwealth Games and European champion at the distance.
Hiltz believes they have a strong chance at earning precious metal in Hungary even in a fast, talented and accomplished field.
“Anything can happen in a championship,” they said to Citius after their record breaker in Monaco. “If I can make it through the rounds and then to the final and absolutely go for it, I have nothing to lose.”
Among the LGBTQ Olympic medalists from Tokyo, Venezuelan triple jumper Yulimar Rojas isn’t just a champion, she’s a legend.
At the Summer Olympics, she finally added a coveted gold medal and broke the world record with a mark of 15.67 meters (51 feet, 4.93 inches). The 2020 Outsports LGBTQ Female Athlete of the Year seeks her fourth consecutive outdoor world championship.
Dutch sprinter Ramsey Angela is one of only two men among the out athletes contesting these championships. In Tokyo, he was the anchor on a men’s 4x400 team that won a silver medal. At the world championships, he will be a part of both the men’s and mixed 4x400 relay teams.
Other out athletes in Budapest include Brazilian discus thrower Izabela da Silva, who enters these championships as the reigning South American champion in the event. Trinidad and Tobago’s Michele Lee-Ahye will contest both the 100 meters and 4x100 relay and was the 2018 Commonwealth Games champion at 100 meters.
Finnish triple jumper Senni Salminen is ranked 20th in the world in her event. Spain’s Marc Tur is the only other man among the out LGBTQ contingent in these upcoming championships, and will contest the 35-kilometer race walk event.
Out athletes at the 2023 World Athletics Championships
Ramsey Angela, Netherlands, relays
Izabela da Silva, Brazil, discus
Michele Lee-Ahye, Trinidad and Tobago, sprints
Nikki Hiltz, USA, 1500 meters
Sha’Carri Richardson, USA, sprints
Yulimar Rojas, Venezuela, triple jump
Senni Salminen, Finland, triple jump
Marc Tur, Spain, race walk