18.68 seconds feels like it rushes by in a snap, but it was all the time Australian Robyn Lambird needed to make history Sunday at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics. With that time, a season-best for the wheelchair sprinter, Lambird became the first out non-binary Paralympian to win a medal, securing the Women’s 100m T34 bronze in their first Paralympics appearance.
Their third-place finish adds another entry into what has already been a monumental Olympics/Paralympics season for gender-diverse athletes. Lambird is one of three out non-binary/neutral Paralympians competing in Tokyo. They join American skateboader Alana Smith and Canadian soccer star Quinn, the first out non-binary Olympic gold medalist ever, as the first round of out non-binary athletes to compete at the top level of international sports.
“It is my first (Paralympic) Games,” Lambird told The West Australian. “It’s been almost a 10-year dream so to be here and to win a medal among the best in the world... it’s awesome.”
Lambird’s medal-worthy performance marks the latest checkpoint in their sports journey. When taking up wheelchair racing more seriously in 2016, the out Aussie eyed a Paralympics appearance in Tokyo as their top goal. They impressed at world championships along the way, but nothing tastes sweeter than claiming a spot on a Paralympics podium.
But more than any individual performance, Lambird saw the Paralympics stage as yet another avenue to prove how high disabled and non-binary athletes can reach, and that no societal attitude or structure is powerful enough to keep marginalized communities from breaking boundaries.
They said as much following Sunday’s race, reiterating their “Disabled is sexy!” rallying cry in an interview with Australian news outlet Channel 7.
Lambird kept the joy flowing during the medal ceremony, sharing a laugh with the medal presenter when they cheekily pretended to grab the gold medal before draping their bronze medal underneath their beaming smile.
That image perhaps symbolized the moment more than anything else that occurred on the track Sunday. The emerging presence of athletes who don’t adhere to the binary structure many cultures and the Olympics/Paralympics apply when defining gender has remained a movement of jubilance.
Even when those commonly held ideas of gender sparked moments of erasure, the non-binary excellence on display remained unwavering. Win or lose, they accomplished their mission of visibility — and the medal win certainly helps that as well. Countless gender diverse viewers saw their community’s excellence prove undeniable, embracing a distinct kind of happiness that only comes from crashing international sports’ most prominent party.
And that is worth far more than its weight in any precious metal, bronze or otherwise.