Monday 21 May 2012

Paralympic Countdown

We must not forget that there are more than one summer Olympic games. A month after the main Olympics end the Paralympics begin, and they begin in 100 days time.

One former Olympian brings the first identified lgbt influence to the Paralympics in Barcelona in 1992. Ex-Cuban swimming champion Rafael Polinario competed in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He defected to Canada in the 1980s and became involved in the Canadian national paralympic swimming team. He coached many swimmers with disabilities in Toronto, and the first of these to compete at the Paralympics was Elisabeth Walker in Barcelona. Elisabeth went on to compete in 3 further games.

Rafael continued coaching, and in the early 1990s succeeded in persuading his disabled daughter Anne to get out of Cuba and move to Canada. She, too, was to become a Paralympian – the only Olympian with an lgbt Olympian parent.

There are even fewer identified lgbt Paralympians than there are Olympians. In fact the only one until London 2012 was equestrian rider Lee Pearson of Team GB. What places him at the top of my lgbt Olympian list is the fact that he has won more medals than anyone else on the list, a total of 9 – and all of them are gold.

Lee made his first Olympic appearance in Sydney in 2000. Always open about his sexuality he often jokes that he’d come out of the closet long before he told his parents before his 21st birthday! Born in 1974 with a muscular disorder I can hardly spell Lee was bundled by the nurses into a cot in a broom closet in fear of upsetting other young mums with his distorted body.

Horses are in Lee’s blood – his great-grandfather was the local horse-whisperer. As a child Lee wasn’t allowed to have a BMX bike like his brothers, so parents David and Lynda bought him a donkey called Sally to ride around the yard on. Lee’s love of riding began from that moment.

Lee first attracted national attention in 1980 when he was given a Children of Courage Award by Mrs. Thatcher (who carried him up the staircase in 10 Downing Street to the ceremony). It was the 1996 Atlanta games that inspired Lee to begin competing as a Paralympian.

For more, official, information on the Games go to  

1 comment:

  1. I have recently come across the name of Kathleen Rose Winter, an American Paralympian who competed in Barcelona. This makes her the earliest known Paralympic athlete, rather than Lee Pearson as stated in the above post. I'll try to update as many posts to include Kathleen.