Athletes have always held a special role within society. As ambassadors of their sport, their communities, and (if they’re the best) their countries, they take on an immense amount of pressure and responsibility to be role models of leadership through their pursuit of excellence. While many choose to focus on their performance, others understand that they have a platform—an opportunity—to also engage in dialogue on issues that go beyond the arena. Take Naomi Osaka’s commentary on mental health when she withdrew from the French Open, Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality in the US, or Megan Rapinoe advocating for equal pay—all examples of athletes using their platforms to amplify important issues and further evidence that politics, culture, and sport have always been intertwined.
Olympian Paul Poirier is the latest athlete to add his voice to the conversation.
Featured on the GLORY June 2021 digital cover, the Canadian ice dancer laced up his first pair of skates when he was five years old. Since then, Poirier has competed at the highest level of his sport, traveling around the globe to face off against the world’s best athletes alongside his skating partner, Piper Gilles. With all that experience comes perspective, something that Poirier has been able to reflect on since the world came to a halt with the 2020 pandemic. As society reemerges and competitions begin to resume, he’s moving forward with new clarity on what kind of role he wants to play in his community, not just as an athlete but a queer activist with a platform—and something to say.
Fresh off of his win at the 2021 World Championships with Gilles (the duo earned a bronze medal in their first live competition in more than a year), Poirier sat down to talk about being a queer athlete, what kind of progress he’s seen in the skating community, and the advice he has to offer for the next generation of LGBTQ+ athletes.
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