First non-binary Winter Olympics star makes figure skating hero ‘afraid’
Former Olympics contender Irina Slutskaya has spoken out on Timothy LeDuc, the Team USA figure skater who will become the first openly non-binary competitor at the Winter Olympics when the Beijing Games begin in February.
Pioneer LeDuc, who uses 'they' and 'them' pronouns, has voiced their pride and said they hopes to raise public awareness of "queer people" succeeding in sports.
The two-time US national champion will compete in China alongside partner Ashley Cain-Gribble, following in the footsteps of stars such as Quinn, who became the first transgender, non-binary athlete at the Olympic Games and won football gold with the Canadian women's team in 2021.
2002 silver medalist Slutskaya has claimed she will "never understand" LeDuc's situation. "It had to happen sooner or later in such conditions of promoting a new ethics in the United States," she said, appearing to refer to the row around transgender athletes competing in women's sports which has resulted in numerous lawsuits in US states.
"For the first time, an athlete who does not identify himself with any of the existing genders will go to the Beijing Olympics.
"It turns out that this is a non-binary American, Timothy Leduc, paired with Ashley Cain-Gribble, who has announced that he is a non-binary person and asked to use the pronouns they and them when [people are] referring to him.
"During my sports career, this was impossible to imagine. There were male and female sports and the athletes themselves were strictly divided into two sexes. There were no rhythmic gymnasts in women's costumes either."
The controversy around gender issues in sports shows little sign of abating. Most notably in recent weeks, parents at the University of Pennsylvania are said to have expressed their concerns and called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to revisit its rules on testosterone levels after Lia Thomas, who is transitioning from a man to a woman, broke a number of female records.
Some campaigners say that legal action to impose limits on transgender athletes competing against rivals born as women is an affront to human rights.
Slutskaya's remarks carried echoes of Russian president Vladimir Putin's views on the debate.
Putin addressed the topic in his annual press conference, saying that "a woman is a woman, a man is a man".
Alarmed Slutskaya asked her fans for their views. "I'm afraid to imagine what will happen in the world and in sports, in particular, in 10-to-20 years with such propaganda," she said of LeDuc's emergence.
"What do you think about it? Do you support such a trend? Or [do you feel] the same horror as me?"