Belle Brockhoff, a snowboarder from Australia, will be competing in her third Winter Olympics at Beijing 2022. Previously, her appearance in the 2018 Games was all about proving she could compete again after a major injury but this time around, her focus is on winning.
“I only want to win one thing,” she said in an Olympic Channel profile, “and that’s a gold medal at the Games.”
Her path to Beijing has been a winding one, occasionally fraught with trauma. She tore her anterior cruciate ligament in March 2017 and then two months before PyeongChang 2018, Brockhoff suffered a fall on the slopes and ruptured her ACL once again..
During her injury rehab, she endured a crisis of confidence. It manifested itself in a lengthy depression, bouts of self-harm, and even thoughts of suicide.
“That’s where I owe a lot to my snowboarding,” Brockhoff reflected, “because that was the one thing that gave me a lot of peace and a lot of happiness.”
Despite the injury and the mental strain, Brockhoff showed up to represent her country at the 2018 Games.
“The goal went from a gold medal at the Games to ‘OK, let’s see what my body and mind can do,” she explained.
Her body held up through the rigors of competition and Brockhoff finished 11th in Women’s Snowboard Cross.
Two years later came the COVID-19 pandemic. Brockhoff got through quarantine by getting closer to her family and working with her sports psychologist. Now she’s preparing for Beijing.
This will be the third Olympics where Brockhoff has competed as an out lesbian. She came out in the summer of 2013 as she was preparing for the Sochi Games.
In an interview with Australian TV, she said that she was showing the world her authentic self with some trepidation in response to Russia’s anti-gay laws, which had just been codified at the time:
“I have a feeling that I would have to kinda go back into the closet a little bit because I don’t want to risk my safety, being arrested or deported…I want to be proud of who I am and be proud of all the work I’ve done to get into the Olympics and not have to deal with this law.”
Despite her understandable fears, Brockhoff showed courage in not backing down and representing her community in Sochi. Four years later, she demonstrated it again in her comeback from a devastating injury.
Now she’s preparing to give what she hopes will be a career defining performance in Beijing at a time when China is becoming more a hostile environment for LGBTQ people. Like she’s done many times before, Brockhoff is ready to stand strong against all obstacles that come her way.