Lesbian Speed Skater Ireen Wüst Wins Gold at Sochi

According to the town's mayor, there are usually no gays in Sochi. But now, with the Winter Olympics in full swing, we know there are at least seven – and one just won gold. The Netherlands' Ireen Wüst won first place in the women's 3,000-meter speedskating race on Saturday.

Wüst finished in 4 minutes and 0.34 seconds, beating out defending champion Martina Sablikova. Sablikova, who is from the Czech Republic, finished in 4 minutes, 1.95 seconds. Olga Graf took bronze, winning Russia's first medal of the 2014 Winter Games. This is Wüst's third career gold in as many Winter Olympics. She won her first in 2006 when she was just 19 years old, becoming the Netherlands' youngest-ever gold medalist.

But some point out that her win this year is important for another reason: Wüst is one of just seven openly gay athletes competing in this year's Games. With the competition this year in a country that punishes those who promote LGBT "propaganda", let alone LGBT individuals themselves, she and other gay athletes are objects of intense fascination. But Wüst may not want to be seen as a figurehead for gay rights in a nation where they are criminalized. In an interview from the 2010 Vancouver games, Wüst said,

I want to talk about ice skating. You are not asking [fellow Olympian] Sven Kramer about how his relationship is going. So why would you ask me? If I would’ve had a relationship with a guy, you wouldn’t have asked me either.

It's hard to say whether her attitude toward being an LGBT Olympian has changed during the Sochi Games. She hasn't yet released any comments on being an LGBT champion in a country where any indication of homosexuality is illegal. Whether she talks about her orientation this year or not, though, Wüst's gold medal is a triumph.

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Image: Getty Images