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‘Team LGBTQ’ finishes 7th in the medal table at Tokyo 2020

Out LGBTQ athletes didn't just show up in Tokyo - they delivered.

By Will Stroude

Words: Will Stroude

With a record number of out athletes competing, Tokyo 2020 was already set to be remembered as a milestone Olympic Games for LGBTQ representation – but ‘Team LGBTQ’ didn’t just show up, they delivered.

At least 182 out LGBTQ athletes competed at Tokyo 2020 – more than triple the number recorded at Rio five years ago.

Now, OutSports, the premier publication for LGBTQ sports coverage, has confirmed that of those athletes, 56 had secured a gold, silver or bronze medal by the conclusion of the Games on Sunday (8 August).

Given that some athletes were competing as part of a team in the same event, that means the final tally for ‘Team LGBTQ’ if it was calculated in the same way as a competing nation would be 32 medals in total: 11 gold; 12 silver and nine bronze.

That figure puts ‘Team LGBTQ’ at a staggering 7th place in the overall Olympic medal table, ahead of sporting heavyweight nations The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Canada, and just behind Australia, who finished in sixth with 17 gold medals.

Among the out LGBTQ medallists was Team GB’s Tom Daley, who secured gold in the men’s 10m synchro platform with partner Matty Lee and bronze in the individual competition.

Daley stands as the only out gay male Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020.

Team GB offered more LGBTQ podium represenation in women’s hockey and the equestrian arena, as Olympic veteran Carl Hester secured bronze in the team dressage and Susannah Townsend, Leah Wilkinson, Sarah Jones helped propel the British women’s hockey team to bronze.

History was also made by Canadian footballer Quinn, who became the first transgender medallist in Olympic history when they helped their squad defeat Sweden in the women’s football final.

Each medal won by an out LGBTQ sportsperson in Tokyo served as a story in its own right, but perhaps none was more powerful than that of Poland’s Katarzyna Zillmann, who came out publicly moments after winning silver in quad sculls as her home country continues to grapple with deep-rooted homophobic attitudes, exemplified by the existence of so-called ‘LGBT-free zones’.

Some have said during the course of Tokyo 2020 that an athlete’s sexuality shouldn’t become the focus of their Olympic glory, and of course, in an ideal world, it wouldn’t be. But with thousands of athletes competing at the Games, LGBTQ sportsmen, women and non-binary people remained grossly under-represented – not to mention the fact that 10 competiting Olympic nations still carry the death penalty for homosexuality.

Perhaps Olympic champion Tom Daley put it best following his 10m synchor platform victory: “When I was younger I always felt like the one that was alone and different and didn’t fit. There was something about me that was never going to be as good as what society wanted me to be.

“I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything.”