Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe is a rarity in international gymnastics — an out, gay male gymnast. Thanks to the performance of Thorpe and his Australian teammates this weekend, his dream of competing at the 2024 Olympics is very much alive.
Thorpe and his Australian teammates (James Hardy, Clay Mason Stephens, Mitchell Morgans and David Tanner) edged out Team New Zealand to win the Oceania Continental Championships. The margin was only .54 of a point.
With the win, Australia now goes to the 2023 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in October, hoping to become one of the men’s teams selected for the 2024 Paris Games. Thorpe can also qualify in an individual event.
Thorpe won this weekend’s floor event, his second in a row in the Oceania Continental Championships, and finished second in the high bar.
2023 Oceania Floor Champion! 5.7/13.933 pic.twitter.com/7NOzMX0lk8— Heath Thorpe (@thorpeheath) May 6, 2023
Thorpe, 22, has been openly gay in the sport since he was 18 and has confronted stereotypes in gymnastics while pushing the men’s side to be more open to creative artistry, as he eloquently said in an Inside Gymnastics interview.
“Outside of the gymnastics world there is a stereotype of men’s gymnastics being feminine or being seen as gay or girly,” Thorpe said. “We’re told that all the time as kids. When you say, ‘I do gymnastics’ someone replies, ‘That’s for girls.’ So you’re told from a young age that the sport you’re doing is emasculating, essentially. I think in retaliation to that, men’s gymnastics has created this environment of hyper masculinity and heteronormativity.
“Artistry in the eyes of men’s gymnastics equals femininity and for some reason we see that as a bad thing. I think we see leaps and artistry as very easy and I don’t know… almost a girly thing. But in reality it requires so much work and time and it’s really hard to do it well. So I think it’s been in an attempt to make the sport seem more masculine that we’ve just taken away the space for any creativity and I think that can be a really dangerous thing because it just becomes a sport about power tumbling.”
It’s great to see Thorpe be himself on the international stage (witness his powdering his face with chalk after a routine), embrace his sexuality and be a voice for LGBTQ athletes. We’re hoping he will do well at Worlds and be on the Olympic stage next year.