Olympics - South African Archer Comes Out At London As Gay Role Model


South African archer Karen Hultzer hopes coming out as a lesbian at the London Olympics will help people struggling with their sexuality and add to the fight against homophobia in sport.

One of 23 openly gay and lesbian athletes at the London Games, Hultzer waited until after her event to go public.

After finishing 46th out of 64 in the women's archery, she said most athletes were so focused on their performance that they could not fight other battles while competing.
"I hope this gives people some courage. The more we come out and talk about it, the more people should realise that being gay is a non-issue and we can progress," Hultzer, 46, who has only been shooting for five years, told reporters.

The issue of homophobia in sport dates back decades but made headlines in Britain in 1998 when English soccer player Justin Fashanu committed suicide eight years after announcing he was gay. His brother John, also a footballer, still denies he was gay.

Gay rights campaigners said there are still only a handful of top athletes who are openly gay -- and usually their admissions come post-career -- so have called on the International Olympic Committee to actively tackle discrimination against homosexuality in sport.

Research by online gay sport community OutSports.com found there were 23 openly gay athletes at London, of which only three are men, compared to 10 at the Beijing 2008 Games and 11 at Athens in 2004. To date, there have been 104 publicly gay athletes competing at Summer Olympics.

The United States was the most represented in the list, with 27 gay or lesbian athletes competing, while soccer was found to be the sport with the highest number of gay athletes.

"All the openly gay athletes this year are from the United States, Europe or Australia and none from Asia and only one from Africa. People are still killed for being gay in the Middle East and Africa," said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of OutSports.

"Sport is still a homophobic corner of virtually every culture so it is important that we are seen at the Olympics and show solidarity."

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