Nico Young competes in the men’s 10,000 meters during day one of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials Friday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Young qualified for the Olympics. | Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Minutes after finishing third in the men’s 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore., Nico Young grabbed a blue marker and wrote his name on a replica of the Eiffel Tower in the infield. It was a symbol that Young was going to Paris as a U.S. Olympian.

Young, 21, did what he needed to do in the race, which was finish in the top three to earn his first Olympic berth. He seemed to be fading a bit about three-quarters into the race but kicked it up a notch in the last 800 meters to guarantee he qualified. And he did it as an openly gay man who is happy to inspire others.

“I mean, it is amazing,” when Young was asked on NBC right after the race how he felt about going to the Olympics. “Yeah, just I feel like this is where I kind of saw my season going and to execute it today is like surreal.”

Nico Young writes his name on a replica of the Eiffel Tower as he heads to Paris. Photo: Screengrab from NBC/Peacock.

With his berth, Young makes history as the first out U.S. gay male track and field athlete to make the Olympics. As of now, he’s the only one we know of worldwide heading to Paris. Dr. Tom Waddell, who founded the Gay Games, competed in the 1968 Olympics in the decathlon, and sprinter Kerron Clement won two gold medals and a silver medal at the 2008 and 2016 Games. Neither man was out at the time he competed.

Young came out as gay to his teammates, family and friends in 2021 and publicly in 2022 and his career has been on an upward trajectory since, seeing him win NCAA running titles and setting records.

“I am living proof that it is not a choice,” read part of his coming out message on Instagram. “It is something I have always known and been aware of, but have kept silent out of fear of rejection. I have struggled to accept myself, but I am becoming more proud and happy with who I am.”

Since 2022, the Southern California native who ran for Northern Arizona University has been a prominent gay elite athlete and said that being out allowed him to separate his performance on the track from it needing to give him validation as a person.

“In high school, I thought people liked me because of how good I am at this sport,” Young told Runners World this month. “Why should I give them a reason to not like me by sharing this part of me? I think that mindset caused a lot of damage later on, because my running success filled the hole of my identity, when I should have been getting affirmation for the person that I am.”

Nico Young, right, with Grant Fisher after the men's 10,000 meters at U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore. Young and Fisher will be joined by Woody Kincaid on the U.S. Olympic team.
Nico Young, right, with Grant Fisher after the men’s 10,000 meters at U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore. Young and Fisher will be joined by Woody Kincaid on the U.S. Olympic team. | Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Young says that hearing from LGBTQ people that he has inspired and motivated them shows why his coming out was important. “It means a lot to me,” Young said. “I hoped to be a voice for people who are struggling.”

Young is also competing in the 5,000 meters at the trials, and with one Olympic slot clinched, perhaps the collegiate record holder in the event will make it a Paris double. Young will be joined on the U.S. 10,000 meters team by Grant Fisher and Woody Kincaid.

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