Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup competes during the
short track speed skating championships in Dunedin
yesterday. The championships conclude today. Photo by Peter
Announcing you are gay can be challenging enough, let
alone when you are part of the testosterone-driven world of
But for Olympic short track speed skater Blake Skjellerup,
the decision to come out has been a positive experience.
The 25-year-old is in Dunedin to compete at the national
championships and told the Otago Daily Times he hoped his
story would help other gay men and women have the courage to
"Growing up it [coming out] was something I always thought I
would want to do," Skjellerup explained.
"Just to share my story with other people. And since I've
come out I've had a lot of encouraging support from other gay
athletes and other members of the community.
"It has been all positive. I haven't had any negative
response from anybody."
Skjellerup took to the ice when he was 10 years old and has
not looked back. It has been his passion ever since. But when
he looked around for gay sporting role models "there just
"As a young kid there weren't many people to relate to. There
are a lot of stereotypes that I can't relate to being gay. I
don't relate to them and they don't relate to me.
"The first person I found that I could relate to was Matthew
Mitcham, who is openly gay, won an Olympic gold medal for
Australia in the 10m platform diving at Beijing in 2008.
"It was encouraging for me to see him succeed and encouraging
for me to know that it is OK, and that you are not any
different from anybody else in sport or in life."
Skjellerup, whose best result at the Vancouver Winter
Olympics in February was 16th in the 1000m, delayed making
his announcement until after the Olympics, but not out of
fear - he simply did not want the distraction.
"I understood that, if I was to come out, it maybe turned
into a story and I didn't really want that to affect my
Competing at the Olympics was the realisation of a life-long
dream. He took a well-earned break to reassess his goals at
the conclusion of the Games. He is based in Canada and
returned to Christchurch to spend some time with family and
The break did not dampen his enthusiasm for the sport and he
hopes to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
His main rival for a spot in that squad could be the same man
who he jostled with for a spot at the Vancouver Games - Mark
Jackson. The pair compete on the world circuit but have
rarely raced against each other, Skjellerup said.
After the disappointment of missing out on an Olympic berth,
Skjellerup accepted Jackson was probably out to make a point
during the finals today.
"I think I might have a small target on my head. But I'm just
going to go out there to give my best. I've had an hour and
a-half practice on it [the surface at the Dunedin Ice
Stadium]. If I'd had a little more time I might be able to
get a better feel for the ice and adjust my equipment to it.
But I'm just going with the flow and see how I'll go."