Gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup blasts Olympics hosts for refusing to ’embody diversity’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup has said he is “disappointed” he will not be able to represent himself as a gay man at the Sochi Winter Olympics if he manages to qualify by February, calling out anti-gay laws in Russia for continuing a legacy of historic discrimination.

Mr Skjellerup told the Sunday Star-Times recently: “It’s disappointing that I likely won’t be there on that level.

“I was very excited to be representing not only my country – but a greater community, and one who, for a large period of history, has been discriminated against on so many levels.”

The 28-year-old was commenting on legislation,approved by President Vladimir Putin in June this year, that prevents the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” to minors.

He added: “It takes something like this for others to realise what it actually means to be gay, and who people are. It’s about breaking down those stigmas, and shattering those barriers that have been imposed by society on gay people for a long, long time.

“The Olympic Games are a great event because they embody diversity, friendship, education and peace. To have something like this happen during this time, it’s a great way for the Olympic movement to shine in what it chooses to highlight.”

He said he had met with gay activists after a world cup event in Russia last year, and was told how oppressed gay people are in the country.

Mr Skjellerup recently finished 33rd in qualifying for the Olympic 500m short track speed skating, which was one spot out of automatic qualification.

He now has a slim chance to qualify for the Sochi Olympics as the first alternate and expects to know by next week whether he will travel to the event.

In December last year, Mr Skjellerup joined as part of the American Apparel Principle 6 campaign, a clothing line that challenges anti-gay laws in Russia.