Eric Radford, who took home a silver medal with his skating parter, Meagan Duhamel, at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, has come out in a piece in Outsports.
The 29-year-old Ontario native is the first elite figure skater to come out at the hight of his competitive career. The only other Olympian to come out during his career was Rudy Galindo, but Galindo retired that same year.
It may not seem like it, but coming out for a figure skater is risky. Though it is often regarded as a “gay sport,” it is also one that relies solely on subjective scores. Your winning is not determined by having the fastest time or the longest jump, but rather by the judges’ opinions of your performance. Thus any negative feelings toward gay people a judge might have could have massive implications on a skater’s career.
"The judges' job is to mark our skating,” Radford told Outsports. "Any sort of bias they could have, they are taught how to judge and how to be as unbiased as possible. It doesn't always happen. But I'm not afraid.”
Radford considered coming out before. He even contacted GLAAD for advice before the Sochi games, but decided against it.
"My concern was that I would be known as 'the gay athlete' if I came out at the Olympics, rather than Eric the medalling figure skater who happens to be gay. And I felt uncomfortable with that title.”
He did try to come out at the Olympics—he told a Canadian reporter that his boyfriend was with him to support him—but the reporter didn’t include that in her piece.
Radford’s childhood was fraught with bullying and teasing—"I didn't want to be different. I wanted to be like all the other boys,” said Radford—but his coach, Paul Wirtz, showed Radford how to be comfortable in his own skin.
"Paul was the first gay person I ever saw in real life. The gay people on TV were always very flamboyant, and until I met Paul I didn't realize you could be gay and just be normal. He was the first person I saw who was like that, gay and just normal. He made me realize I didn't have to be afraid of it.”
Radford currently lives in Montreal with his boyfriend of four years, Normand, and Normand’s teenaged daughter.
"I'm proud of our whole situation, how we're basically a gay family. We function great, we get along so well. We have become a family. I was only 25 when I met Normand. I don't know many gay guys that age who would take on that responsibility. But I jumped right in. It's been fun and fulfilling and has broadened my perspective on so many things."
Radford and Duhamel are both aiming to compete in the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics. He’s even got the Olympic rings tattooed on his side, as a symbol of his commitment to the goal. He sees 2018 as his final bow, as though single skaters’ careers are often over by 30, pair skaters can compete until about 40.