Openly LGBT duo makes history at US Figure Skating Championships

Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson compete in the Championship Rhythm Dance during the 2019 US Figure Skating Championships at Little Caesars Arena.

Athletes Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson have made history as the first openly LGBT+ duo to compete in the US Figure Skating Championships.

As 22-year-old Manta and 24-year-old Johnson took to the ice last weekend, NBC Sports commentator Terry Gannon noted the two were both members of the LGBT community—making them the first openly LGBT duo to take part in the competition.

Manta publicly came out as bisexual in October with a heartwarming video posted on Instagram featuring her and her partner. Later that month, Johnson confirmed to OutSports he identifies as gay while also falling “under the umbrella of queer.”

Karina Manta and her partner.

Karina Manta publicly came out in October 2018. (Karina Manta/Instagram)

Unlike his figure skating partner, Johnson never made a proper “coming out” post. He instead nonchalantly published pictures of himself chilling with his partner, or next to Colorado’s rainbow flag, or with Manta enjoying gay Pride in Denver. 

The figure skating duo ended up in 7th place in the overall competition. Openly gay athlete Timothy LeDuc and his figure skating partner Ashley Cain won the National Pairs title.

The highlight of Manta and Johnson’s performance was their free dance, high-energy routine to “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” which won them 104.81 points from the judges and a standing ovation from the crowd.

“I can’t express how much it meant for everyone to get behind us this weekend. Aside from the fact that it felt incredible to put out a skate like that, it felt powerful to have a stadium of people at their feet—applauding us as we are. That moment fills me with hope. That moment makes me excited for the future of our sport. That moment will probably be one of my favorite moments, forever. ️‍ ” Manta wrote in a post on her Instagram account on Monday (January 28).

Sharing the same picture showing the figure skating duo greeting the crowd, Johnson wrote: “The moments after free dance were some of the most special of my life. This nationals held so much meaning for us. I will never forget it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Detroit.”

Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson dance to Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Little Caesars Arena on January 25, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan.

Openly LGBT duo Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson ended up in 7th place at the 2019 US Figure Skating Championships. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Fellow figure skater Adam Rippon, who made history last year as the first openly gay US man to qualify for the Winter Olympics, congratulated Johnson and Manta on their routine.

“Get so many chills seeing this,” Rippon wrote, commenting on Johnson’s post.

Figure skating duo Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson have been dancing together since 2014

Manta and Johnson have been dancing together for nearly five years, but the nationals in Detroit were the first US Figure Skating Championships they took part in after they both came out.

The first competition they took part in after Manta came out was the 2018 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Skate America in October. Sports presenter Nick McCarvel noted in a tweet at the time that the duo may have been the first “queer team” to skate side-by-side.

Reacting to that tweet, Rippon wrote: “I love my gay parents ️‍ ” to which Johnson replied: “We love you too son  ️‍ ”

Following the 2018 Grand Prix performance, Manta wrote on Instagram: “And this weekend, I was able to take the ice completely as myself. Short hair. Bright lipstick. A body that I (mistakenly) never thought looked like what I believed ice dancers could look like.”

The figure skater added: “I think this sport is making space for new approaches, new forms of art, new types of people. I like to think Joe and I are both trying to keep widening the space in our own ways, alongside so many teams who are pushing our art form in a hundred beautiful ways. It’s an exciting thing to feel a part of.”

Watch the figure skating duo’s free dance routine at the 2019 US Figure Skating Championships: