Courtesy of Athlete Ally

Olympians discuss the role of LGBT allies

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NEW YORK – To the global soccer community, Heather O’Reilly was known by the nickname HAO (pronounced “hey-oh”). But to her teammates, she was affectionately called GAO (pronounced “gay-oh”) for her support of LGBT athletes.

O’Reilly, who is retired and married to husband Dave Werry, was recently honored by Athlete Ally for helping to create an LGBT-inclusive athletic environment for the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

“Athletes like Heather are exactly what we need,” said Lori Lindsey, a former teammate of O’Reilly, in an interview last Tuesday at Athlete Ally’s annual Action Awards in New York City. “You are starting to see more and more gay athletes come out of the closet to stand up and speak out, but really the biggest evolution is having straight allies to support and speak up for us.”

A record 53 out gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes competed at the Rio Olympics, according to Outsports, up from 23 athletes at the London Games.

“It was a far more openly diverse Olympic Games than we’ve ever had,” said Greg Louganis, a five-time Olympic diving medalist. “I think it will continue to trend that way.”

53 athletes are a small fraction of the more than 11,000 athletes who competed in Rio. Athlete Ally sends bracelets and backpack patches to athletes who want to show their support of the LGBT community in the Olympic Village.

“In order to make [publically coming out] more welcoming, we need more people to be visible in their support of the LGBT community,” said Hudson Taylor, the Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally.

O’Reilly showed her support of LGBT community by participating in the EveryFan campaign, which highlighted the challenges LGBT fans face when attending a sporting event. The former University of North Carolina soccer player also spoke out against H.B. 2, North Carolina’s controversial state law that governs transgender bathroom access.

“I think I have the responsibility as a professional athlete to use my voice for things that I believe in,” said O’Reilly, a three-time Olympic gold medalist. “For me, treating people with respect and including everybody is a no brainer.”

Louganis speaks with fellow Olympians and encourages them to be vocal in their support of LGBT community.

“You may feel like you are stating the obvious,” Louganis said, “but a lot of times it helps for the obvious to be stated in an emphatic way.”

Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37