When you’re a LGBTI sportsperson going to the Rio Paralympics, you have to triumph over more than just your disability.
You also have to handle being one of only five out athletes, a scarce number considering there will be 4,060 athletes who will compete across 528 medal events.
That’s just 0.12% of athletes who have come out.
But there is one athlete, who was expecting to compete, but was fulled to pull out at the last minute: British Paralympian Claire Harvey.
As revealed exclusively by Gay Star News, the shot put and javelin athlete suffered a serious injury when a 6kg kettle bell falling off a shelf onto her hand.
‘I’m fighting hard to get to a point that I can watch the games and support my teammates without crying. I will get there but this is everything I’ve worked towards for two years and it disappeared in one split second,’ she said.
‘That’s sport for you though – the massive highs are also accompanied by some massive lows; just like in life, you have to learn to manage both.’
But there will still be other athletes flying the flag for Team LGBTI at the Paralympic Games.
Jen Armbruster and Aysa Miller (USA, goalball)
Originally born in Taipei to a military family, Jen dreamed of joining the forces like her dad. But at 14, she began to lose her vision.
She continued to play in her school’s basketball team when she became legally blind, and couldn’t play any longer after she lost her eyesight completely.
And for Asya, the Michigan-born athlete suffers from Stargardt disease which causes progressive vision loss to the point of legal blindness.
Meeting through goalball, the couple married and they have a son called Ryder together.
‘Occasionally we do argue like spouses and our teammates laugh at it. And sometimes we use terms of endearment on the court,’ Asya said.
And Jen joked: ‘What a way for a couple to vent, throwing a 1.25kg goalball at each other…’
Lee Pearson (GB, equestrian)
Lee Pearson was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenital, a rare disorder that is characterized by multiple joint contractures.
He is a 10-time Paralympic gold medalist.
‘I may daydream occasionally that I’ve got a gorgeous, muscled body, but I don’t have a choice about my disability just as I don’t have a choice about being gay,’ he said.
‘I love who I am and certainly don’t have a problem about being gay.’
Moran Samuel (Israel, rowing)
Growing up in Karmiel, she was in the Israeli Air Force when she was named as an outstanding athlete in basketball. This allowed her to complete her military service by representing the country in sports. But in 2006, she suffered a spinal stroke that paralyzed the entirety of her lower body.
Becoming a physical therapist, she didn’t let her love of sports die.
After persuasion by her girlfriend (and now wife, Limor Goldberg), she became a rower and played basketball with the national wheelchair team.
She’s tipped to do well in Rio after breaking the world record and winning gold at the 2015 World Rowing Cup in Italy.
Angela Madsen (USA, track and field)
Angela Madsen, at 56, will be competing in the shot put and javelin events in Rio.
A mom at the age of 17, she was brought up in a military family. Told she couldn’t become a marine now she had a daughter, it made her determined to join the armed forces.
At 20, at a Marine Corps training session, she fell and someone stepped on her back rupturing two discs in her spine. Surgery followed, but due to a string of errors, she was left as a paraplegic. She came out as gay a year later.
The US Military refused to pay for Madsen’s medical bills, meaning she became homeless. Living out of a storage locker in Disneyland, she turned her life around when she was introduced to wheelchair basketball.
In 2007, she became the first woman with a disability to row cross the Atlantic Ocean, and two years later became the first woman to row cross the Indian Ocean.
Madsen met her wife, Debra, in 2006.
Do you know of any other openly LGBTI athletes heading to the Paralympics? Let us know in the comments.