Gay NZ skater Skjellerup blasts Olympics hosts

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 08:00 12/01/2014
Kiwi speed skater Blake Skjellerup
Fairfax NZ
SPEAKING OUT: Kiwi speed skater Blake Skjellerup.

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Kiwi speed skater Blake Skjellerup, one of the world's only openly gay winter athletes, is still sweating on potential qualification for the Sochi Olympics, but remains eager to draw attention to Russia's views on homosexuality.

Skjellerup finished 33rd in qualifying for the Olympic 500m short track speed skating, one spot out of automatic qualification.

The 28-year-old has a chance to reach Sochi as the first alternate and expects to know by next week whether he will travel to the Olympics, which begin on February 7.

While he concedes his chances to compete are slim, he still wants to bring attention to Russia's oppressive anti-gay laws, which include fines for promoting "non-traditional sexual relations" to minors.

"It's disappointing that I likely won't be there on that level," Skjellerup told the Sunday Star-Times from his home in Calgary, Canada.

"I was very excited to be representing not only my country - but a greater community, and one who, for a large period of history, has been discriminated against on so many levels.

"It takes something like this for others to realise what it actually means to be gay, and who people are. It's about breaking down those stigmas, and shattering those barriers that have been imposed by society on gay people for a long, long time.

"The Olympic Games are a great event because they embody diversity, friendship, education and peace. To have something like this happen during this time, it's a great way for the Olympic movement to shine in what it chooses to highlight."

Skjellerup, who came out after the last Winter Olympics, secretly met with gay activists after a world cup event in Russia last year, and was told how harshly the gay community is treated there.

Skjellerup featured alongside gay American athletes Robbie Rogers and Brittney Griner in a CNN documentary titled Journey of the Gay Athlete.

It screens on CNN (Sky channel 87) today at 9am, 4pm and midnight Monday.

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- Sunday Star Times

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