Cheryl Maas – first athlete to make a statement on gay rights at the 2014 Winter Olympics


Portrait: Vernon Deck

It was a brief gesture, but powerfully symbolic nonetheless. Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas had just messed up her second run at the inaugural slopestyle event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, when the cameras cut to her waiting for her score.

As she walked away, resigned to the fact she hadn’t made the finals and would have to try again in the semis on Saturday, she thrust a gloved hand into the camera. The glove in question (or rather mitt) was covered in rainbows and unicorns – leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind as to where Cheryl (a happily married lesbian) stands on Vladimir Putin’s recent anti-gay propaganda bill, which outlaws “non-traditional sexual practices” from being promoted in public.

It might not have been quite as blatant as the 1968 black power salute – and indeed it appeared to slip under the radar of the BBC commentators – but this latest gloved photo-opportunity is certainly the latest in a long line of political statements at the Olympic Games, and could yet see Cheryl be remembered for far more than her individual slopestyle performance.

Could this open the floodgates? Will we see more other athletes using their Olympic stage to show support for gay rights? One thing’s for sure, we’re proud that the first such protest – however small – was made by a snowboarder.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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