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article imageBlake Skjellerup a step closer to Sochi Olympics

By Mathew Wace Peck     Aug 31, 2013 in Sports
Blake Skjellerup, the openly gay New Zealand speed skater, has reached the first goal in an internet fundraising campaign for resources needed to enter the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Skjellerup, 28, has so far secured $22k (£12k, €14k) through a campaign on the fund-raising website Indiegogo, launched to fund his campaign to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, in Sochi, Russia.
In order to qualify for the Games, Skjellerup will first need to finish in the top 32 in four World Cups, to be held, respectively, in Russia, South Korea, Italy and China.
However, that’s not all, as the 28-year-old tells Out Magazine, “Although I am an individual competing in an individual sport, I need a team behind me, pushing me all the way and, without the support of these organizations and everyone else in the community, the journey would be a lot harder and a lonely one at that.”
Accordingly, the speed skater needs to raise a total of $33k (£21, €24), which would then allow him to compete at the highest level possible.
Previously, Blake Skjellerup competed in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, in Vancouver, Canada. Shortly afterwards, he came out as gay. Explaining how that decision came about, the New Zealander said, “Vancouver is one of the most open and diverse cities I have ever been to and it definitely gave me the courage, motivation and inspiration to come out.”
Of that decision, he has no doubts. “I was in the closet for a long time and who I am now is who I really am and who I always will be,” he added.
However, the problem now facing gay athletes at the Sochi Olympics is that Russia has recently passed new anti-gay laws. Responding to that earlier this month, Skjellerup said, “I’m not going to tone down or change who I am just because I’ve gone to a different country. If it gets me in trouble, then I guess so be it.”
Currently, there is a world-wide campaign being fought by heterosexual and homosexual people, athletes and non-athletes, to put pressure on Russia to repeal it’s anti-gay legislation. However, so far, the Russian authorities have remained unrepentant, despite claims that many politicians are themselves gay.
In August, the British actor, writer and TV presenter, Stephen Fry, met with the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, to make the case for a peaceful boycott of the Sochi Olympics. However, Cameron — who has since failed to convince the British parliament to bomb Syria – declined to support the call.
Despite the unwillingness of Western governments to take some sort of action, many ordinary Western civilians are joining the call to support Russia’s gay citizens, and are doing so in a variety of ways.
Just a few include: the American actor and screenwriter, Wentworth Miller – famous for playing Michael Schofield in Prison Break – recently turning down an invitation to be guest of honour at the St Petersburg International Film Festival; Beware of Images producing a poster that depicts a concentration-camp-style blue-and-white-striped prison uniform, complete with pink triangle — the symbol forced on to some of the victims of the Nazis, to signify to all that they were homosexual; a new range of designer boxer shorts by the Belgian, Kristof Buntinx.
More about Blake Skjellerup, Sochi Wimter Olympics, Speed skating, Vladimir putin, Gay
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