Andrew Blaser, 32, made history as the first out gay man to win a spot representing the United States in the winter Olympic sport of skeleton, and on Thursday, he raced with a rainbow saddle on his sled.
“It’s kinda fun! Makes me smile,” Blaser said. The saddle was reportedly a gift from his teammate, Sara Roderick.
The rainbow saddle was an especially powerful statement in China, a country whose government largely opposes LGBTQ rights.
China considers LGBTQ activists to be political dissidents and subjects them to surveillance, harassment and imprisonment. The country lacks marriage equality as well as LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.
Blaser is the only man on the U.S. skeleton team at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. He is also part of a record number of out LGBTQ athletes competing in China.
While studying at the University of Idaho, Blaser originally competed as a track-and-field athlete in pole vaulting and hurdles. He is currently ranked 28th worldwide among male skeleton athletes, but he initially hated the sport, according to the Team USA website.
He preferred bobsledding, but his coaches said his body was better suited to skeleton. The sport requires speed and slenderness, which befits his 6’4″ height and 189-pound weight.
Blaser first spoke to the media about being gay in a November 2021 interview with Outsports, where he mentioned that he wears fingernail polish while practicing and competing.
“When we’re going to sliding and practice, I think it’s kind of funny and it’s a little bit of shock value,” he said, “just making people turn their head and kind of catch them off guard, which is a little bit of what I do with my jewelry and even my race suit, which is snakeskin. I’m the only one who has a snakeskin print suit.”