Jan 2, 2014, 10:16 AM EST
Olympic champion figure skater Brian Boitano expressed gratitude and caution in his first interview since being named to the White House delegation to Sochi and coming out as gay two weeks ago.
“When the president named the delegation, and I read in the news what his message was of tolerance and diversity, I thought I have to take this opportunity [to come out],” Boitano said on TODAY on Thursday. “I think the message is so strong, I’ve always wanted to represent my country as best I could. I knew that I had to go past my comfort zone and reveal a private side of my life that I had never done before because I felt that the message is so strong.”
Boitano and two other gay athletes — two-time Olympic hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow and tennis legend Billie Jean King – were among the delegation named by president Barack Obama on Dec. 17.
“I was so honored to be asked by the White House,” Boitano said. “Going through the whole vetting process and being named to the delegation, it was really interesting because I didn’t know who was going to be on the delegation or any part of it.”
He’s set to travel to Sochi the day before the Opening Ceremony. His actions will be scrutinized in Russia, where a law is in place banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations toward minors.
“I think that we have to be careful once we go over there,” Boitano said. “I think the statement is already being made by us being on the delegation — Billie Jean and Caitlin — and us standing together, united as gay people showing that there is freedom of speech and we are successful human beings and athletes. I think that speaks measures.”
Boitano urged freedom of expression for anybody in Sochi, though.
“I encourage everybody to do what they feel is best for themselves,” he said. “I never thought that I would be coming out in this way. In a matter of 10 hours, I decided to do it. That was what was right for me at this time. I tell everybody that I think that they should do what’s right for them at their correct time.”
Boitano, 50, came out publicly two days after he was named to the delegation. He said his life has changed and the reaction has been fantastic and supportive.
“I really never felt that I had to [come out publicly],” he said. “I’ve always been a private person. I’ve kept my private side of my life special for family and friends who really knew me. I’ve never been ashamed of who I was. I’ve always been open with them, so I really didn’t feel that there was a need. I’m just a private guy. I realize that there was a public side of my life and a private side. I’ve always chosen to keep my sexuality private.”
Mar 7, 2014, 3:28 PM EST
Full Day 1 recap of events in Sopot, Poland.
Mar 7, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Ukraine official has said delegation may leave Sochi if Crimea situation escalates.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:52 PM EST
White House spokesman says case of beer will be delivered soon.
Mar 7, 2014, 1:39 PM EST
Races for World Cup crystal globes heat up in Sweden.
Mar 7, 2014, 11:52 AM EST
Zero Americans won medals in Sochi. Two made the podium in one day in Inzell.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:51 AM EST
Canada’s gold-medal goalie headed for Columbus, Ga.
Mar 7, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Watch the ceremony from Fisht Stadium in Sochi.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:58 AM EST
Security guard, ex-girlfriend testify on fifth day of murder trial.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:49 AM EST
Same agency that confirmed Yuna Kim is dating a South Korean hockey player.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:59 AM EST
Lead singer rubbed blue substance on his face during their performance.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:31 AM EST
Ukraine athletes set to compete in Russia amid Crimea situation.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:43 PM EST
1984 and 1988 Olympic champion joins Arizona Cardinals staff.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:28 PM EST
Teemu Selanne’s socks among more than 50 items on display.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:10 PM EST
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Mar 6, 2014, 5:31 PM EST
Tatyana McFadden eyes history in homecoming. Military vets share common sledge hockey bond. Model/Amazing Race contestant helps bring snowboading to Paralympics. Husband and wife team go for skiing gold. Former Austrian World Cup Alpiner learns to ski again.
Mar 6, 2014, 1:21 PM EST
New U.S. sprint star, world records watch, Jamaican back from failed drug test.
Mar 6, 2014, 11:33 AM EST
Austrian Olympic champion takes victory in Sweden.
Mar 6, 2014, 10:28 AM EST
Universal Sports has live online coverage all weekend.
Mar 6, 2014, 9:46 AM EST
Oscar Pistorius kneeled, cried, prayed while holding girlfriend, witness said.
Mar 5, 2014, 4:33 PM EST
Canadian women’s goalie practiced with the Oilers on Wednesday.
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