Non-binary figure skater Timothy LeDuc might be about to make history at the Winter Olympics 2022.
This week, LeDuc will compete in the U.S. figure skating championships. Should they succeed, they would go on to become the first publicly out non-binary Winter Olympian.
LeDuc already made history at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, becoming the first openly gay athlete to win a U.S. pairs title, bagging gold alongside pairs partner Ashley Cain-Gribble.
Three years later, LeDuc, who has since revealed that they identify as non-binary, has a chance to make history again at the same event.
Appearing on the My New Favorite Olympian podcast this week, alongside Cain-Gribble, the duo discussed their partnership and refusal to conform to the gendered categories in a highly-gendered sport like figure skating.
“They always had the storyline of the male is super masculine and strong and always [saves] the girl who is a wilted little flower and is weak, or it was a full-on love story, where obviously a male and a female fall in love with each other”, Cain-Gribble said on the podcast. Going on to explain that the duo “never wanted to be what was looked at as the traditional team”, instead choosing to focus on routines where both skaters are empowered.
Leduc discussed the complexities of competing is such a traditionally gendered sport, and what it’s like as an athlete who “exists and really thrives outside the binary”.
“I never want anyone to feel shame for parts of themselves because they’ve come into figure skating,” LeDuc said. “I think of skaters like me who maybe want to put on makeup and go out and skate in a costume that maybe is unusual or different, but maybe they wouldn’t do those things because they feel like the judges aren’t going to give them as good of scores.”
Opening up about some of the challenges they face competing in such a highly-gendered sport, Leduc said:
“There are going to be people that don’t understand it. You know, they look at me, they see that I have a beard or they look at maybe my physical characteristics and say: ‘You’re a boy, act like a boy. What are you doing?’”
“We want people to look at our skating and know that they don’t have to change who they are in order to be a part of this sport, in order to do something that they’re passionate about,” Cain-Gribble added. “You work hard, you love it and you’re passionate about it. You should be able to do this. You shouldn’t have to fit a mold.”
When the pair finished first-place at the 2019 U.S. Championships, Cain-Gribble wore pants, which is traditionally uncommon dress for female figure skaters.
“We called [the performance] ‘Two Pillars of Strength’ because the message is two amazing athletes coming together to create something beautiful,” LeDuc said.
Timothy LeDuc could become the first publicly out non-binary athlete to compete at a #WinterOlympics.
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