The mental preparation for the the Olympics can be just as intense as the physical demands of training.
For six-time U.K. national champion shot putter Sophie McKinna, taking the step to come out publicly as gay has been a key piece in her own journey, laying the groundwork for next summer’s Paris Games.
In an interview with Sky Sports News, McKenna, who’s been out with friends and family for years, says she no longer wants to hide.
“It’s about time I wasn’t just supported in this environment, but by the wider community,” she said. “I’m really working hard on clearing all of those obstacles, if you like, before the Olympics. It’s another rock out of the backpack, as they say.
“I think my performance will only improve by doing this. It takes another thing out of the back of my mind that I don’t have to be concerned about or be anxious about.”
At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Great Britain had 16 out LGBTQ athletes—just behind Brazil, Canada and the Netherlands.
Team GB’s lone out track and field athlete, Tom Bosworth, retired from race walking last year.
Now, McKinna is stepping up to take on that mantle of visibility. with the hope that coming out in sports will continue to become more normalized.
“It has been a bit of a battle,” she said. “Part of me is of the mindset, ‘I don’t want this to overshadow my sporting career.’ I don’t want it to become, ‘Gay shot putter does this; gay shot putter does that’. I still want to be Sophie.
Ultimately, it doesn’t affect my sporting performance and doesn’t define me as a person. That was one of the big reasons why I didn’t discuss this publicly. But at the same time, I realized I have a really valuable platform, and maybe I could help somebody else who is in two minds about discussing it publicly, or even personally, with family and friends.”
Looking ahead to the 2024 Olympics, McKinna is hoping to qualify alongside fellow out shot putter Raven Saunders. Geisa Arcanjo of Brazil, who also competed at the Tokyo Games, will be missed at the upcoming Paris Games following her retirement in 2022.
Affirming her hopes for next year’s Olympics, McKinna said, “I want to be able to have my family, my partner and my friends there supporting me.”
Whatever her result, McKinna can certainly count on the support and solidarity from the LGBTQ community behind her as well.