LGBT advocacy groups have backed a fund designed to help a gay speed skater from New Zealand raise money to help him qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Outsports.com, GLAAD, Athlete Ally and the Federation of Gay Games are among the organizations that support the effort to help Blake Skjellerup raise at least $15,000 he will use to help pay for his and his coaches’ travel expenses to compete in Olympic qualification events in China, South Korea, Italy and Russia in the coming months. The fund has raised $15,810 as of deadline since its launch on Monday.
“So far it’s going really, really well,” Skjellerup, 28, told the Washington Blade during an interview from Calgary, Alberta, on Monday where he continues to train. “I’m just excited and really… humbled and honored to see that so many people are willing to support me.”
Skjellerup, who competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, told the Blade he remains committed to taking part in the Sochi games in spite of mounting outrage over Russia’s LGBT rights record.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed a broadly worded law that bans gay propaganda to minors.
The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said it has received assurances from the Kremlin the law will not affect gay athletes and others who travel to Sochi, even though Russian officials have said they plan to enforce the statute during the games. Putin last week signed a decree that bans demonstrations and other public gatherings in Sochi between Jan. 7 and March 21.
Skjellerup last month announced he will wear a Pride pin during the games if he qualifies for the Olympics.
“It’s been a positive reaction so far,” he told the Blade. “Everybody is behind the idea and are excited to see that I am proud of who I am and that I’m going to show that in Sochi.”
Skjellerup applauded the way he feels the Canadian Olympic Committee has responded to what he described as the “atrocity that is going on in Russia at the moment” with regards to LGBT rights. He added he is not concerned about any potential repercussions he could face by wearing his Pride pin in Sochi.
“I’m wearing a pin as an Olympian,” Skjellerup told the Blade. “It’s an Olympic pin, so I don’t think there’s any, I guess, legal taking place as I am an Olympian competing in the Olympics.”