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The brilliant, brave and heroic LGBT+ Olympians flying the flag for Team GB

Emma Powys Maurice July 22, 2021
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Celia Quansah, Tom Bosworth, Demi Stokes, Tom Daley

Celia Quansah, Tom Bosworth, Demi Stokes, Tom Daley. (Getty)

We’re spoilt for choice at this year’s Olympics as the number of out LGBT+ athletes has more than doubled since the 2016 Summer games.

The US is leading the way with 47 out athletes, including the phenomenal Megan Rapinoe, Sue Bird, Erica Sullivan and Kayla Miracle. They’re followed by Canada with a total of 33, while the Netherlands is third with 30.

Team GB still has a strong showing though, with 13 out and proud British LGBT+ athletes travelling to Tokyo this summer. Here’s a quick look at the talent.

Tom Daly – diving

Arguably the most famous face on Team GB, diver Tom Daly captured the nation’s heart at just 15 years old and still hasn’t given it back.

He’s come a long way since then and has gone from being the youngest Team GB diver to the oldest, though he’s still only 27. Tokyo 2020 will be his fourth Olympics, and is likely to be his last shot at getting the gold.

 

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A post shared by Tom Daley (@tomdaley)

Susannah Townsend – field hockey

Susannah Townsend plays as a midfielder for Canterbury and the England and Great Britain national teams. After winning gold at Rio 2016 a long injury layoff took her out of action for year, but she’s now fitter than ever and chasing after a second title in Tokyo.

“To win an Olympic gold medal, it’s a dream that you always have. Especially if you are an Olympic sport. And for me to see the impact it had on my family probably my most emotional bit,” she told Olympic Channel.

Carl Hester – equestrian

Carl Hester, 54, is “absolutely delighted” to be representing Team GB in the dressage event. “Undoubtedly this will be a very different Olympics, but to represent my country on the biggest stage there is… is such a privilege for me,” he tweeted.

The equestrian star – who is regarded as one of Britain’s finest dressage riders – was raised on the tiny island of Sark, where his introduction to riding was on the back of a donkey.

 

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A post shared by Carl Hester MBE (@carlhestermbe)

Mel Reid – golf

The world number 38 was born in Derby but now lives in America where she’s racked up several victories in major championships, most recently the ShopRite LPGA Classic event in New Jersey.

Reid came out as gay in a 2018 interview with Athlete Ally, saying: “I protected my sexuality for a long time because I thought I had to in order to help my career and to get more sponsors. But then I started to wonder why these companies would want to sponsor me and have me represent them if I can’t be my authentic self.”

Megan Jones – rugby

Megan Jones, 24, began her rugby career with the Welsh team Glamorgan Wanderers, aged just six years old. She had her professional debut for England against New Zealand in 2015 and now plays for Wasps Ladies at club level.

Tokyo 2020 won’t be her first Olympics as she previously went to Rio as a reserve, but this time she’ll be playing alongside her partner, Celia Quansah, who’s also competing for Team GB.

 

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A post shared by Megan Jones (@thanksmeg)

Celia Quansah –rugby

Quansah was born to an English mother and a Ghanaian father, and grew up in Twickenham. Over the past year she and her partner Megan Jones have increasingly shared their life together on Instagram, realising how important this representation was to others.

“We never spoke out about it initially but when we did the response was incredible,” Quansah told the BBC.

“Everyone was like this is amazing, you’re helping so many people by doing this.

“We didn’t even think about it before. If we can help one person feel like they can be themselves, it just makes you want to do it more.”

Tom Bosworth – athletics, race walk

The race walker and PinkNews Award winner came out publicly before the Rio Olympics in 2016 and is now urging other closeted athletes to come out ahead of the Tokyo games.

“I can’t believe that I had such an impact as I did,” he recently told the Daily Mail. “It shows us just how few people have done what I did. In countries where a lot of sport is played and publicised, it makes no sense.

“I am aware of more athletes who now are living quite openly but there are still very few at the highest level representing their country,” he continued.

“It still feels, not a taboo subject, but just hushed away from. When you have 11,000 athletes at the Olympics and just 150 out gay sports men and women, it just doesn’t add up.”

Saskia Budgett – rowing

Saskia Budgett has been selected as a reserve for the Tokyo Olympics, meaning she’ll act as an alternate if one of her teammates can’t compete.

The 21-year-old won a European bronze medal in the double sculls in Italy earlier this year. She’s often seen alongside her partner and fellow Team GB rower, Kyra Edwards, who’ve been dubbed “rowing’s power couple”.

 

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A post shared by Saskia Budgett (@saskiabudgett)

Demi Stokes – football

Defender Demi Stokes joined Sunderland’s youth academy as an 8-year-old and is now playing for Manchester City and the England national team.

Earlier this month she spoke on behalf of the Team GB women’s squad about their decision to take the knee before matches, saying they “feel strongly” that it’s the right thing to do.

“We know we have a big part to play. It’s important we use our platforms to help in any way we can,” she said, as reported by the BBC.

“We all feel strongly as individuals and as a team. We all understand what’s been going on around racism and discrimination. It is the people that don’t have a voice that we are standing up for.

“We want to show to everyone this is something serious. It’s still happening. What a way to do it, on an Olympic stage.”

Rachel Daly – football

When she’s not training for Tokyo Rachel Daly plays for Houston Dash and the England national team, spending the last year on loan to West Ham United.

Last year she was selected as captain of the Houston Dash ahead of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, which her team went on to win. Daly herself won the tournament Golden Boot and was named tournament MVP.

Fran Kirby – football

Fran Kirby began her career with her local team in Reading and now plays as a forward for Chelsea and the England national team.

She feels “happy, lucky and proud” to be going to Tokyo after being diagnosed with a heart condition in 2019 which left her struggling to walk up stairs.

“Everyone was just really happy for me after everything I’ve gone through,” she told the BBC. “I stayed with [my aunties] as much as I could during everything, so they saw it first hand. For me to tell them I got selected was really special. It was a massively proud moment for me and my family.”

 

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A post shared by Fran Kirby (@frankirby)

Jill Scott – football

This veteran midfielder decided to return on loan to Everton, where she previously spent seven years before a transfer to Manchester City, in January in an attempt to salvage her chance of making the slimmed-down Team GB squad of 18 players. Having made the cut, she feels vindicated by the bold move, she told The Guardian.

“If my situation had stayed the same as it was before Christmas then I don’t think I would be sat here today,” she said. “I knew something had to change and that wasn’t me sulking or anything like that, I appreciated the position I was in, but I also knew I had a lot more to give as well.”

Carly Telford – football

Carly Telford, 33, is a goalkeeper for Chelsea and the England national team. She was called to play for Team GB following Karen Bardsley’s withdrawal through injury.

“I am so disappointed for her [Bardsley] but of course tremendously proud to get the chance to play at an Olympic Games,” Telford said. “It is an incredible honour and I will give it all I can.”

Telford came out publicly in 2017 and is now in a relationship with the England cricketer Georgia Elwiss.

 

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A post shared by Carly Telford (@carlytelford1)

Related topics: LGBT athletes, olympics

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