Gold medal Olympic goaltender Charline Labonte comes out as gay
Canadian women's hockey goaltender Charline Labonte came out as gay on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. (Didier Debusschere/QMI Agency/Files)
Veteran Canadian women's hockey goaltender Charline Labonte went public as a gay athlete Wednesday.
"I am gay and proudly authentic," she wrote in a story published by OutSports.com and LezSpreadTheWorld.com.
Labonte, 31, who won Olympic gold for the fourth straight time at the Sochi Games last February and hinted at hanging up her skates internationally, felt uneasy about playing in Russia.
"The new Russian laws, including the anti-gay 'propaganda' laws, created a malaise that was felt by most people around me, gay or straight," Labonte revealed. "Were we afraid? Of course! Were we in danger? No idea. We never had the intention to protest or talk about being gay. We were in Sochi for a single reason and that was to compete at the highest level of our capacities. We worked too hard to let any outside distractions separate us from our ultimate dream."
The native of Greenfield Park, Que., said she was happy to have girlfriend and Canadian Olympic speedskater Anastasia Buscis by her side in Sochi, which made celebrating another gold that much more sweeter.
And she never felt ostracized for being who she is, dating back to when she first joined the women's team.
"I am fortunate to have been a part of the Canadian women's national hockey team for 12 years, and I never felt I couldn't be free," Labonte said.
"Just like everywhere else our team had gays and straights, just like we had brunettes and redheads. Everyone on my team has known I'm gay since I can remember and I never felt degraded for it. On the contrary, my sport and my team are the two environments where I feel most comfortable. The subject of homosexuality was never taboo with us. We talk and laugh about it like everything else. I feel privileged to live and be myself in an environment like this because I know that just a few years ago this topic was never a part of the conversations in the locker room."
She reflected back on the year the women's team had, enduring the exhibition losses to the U.S. and a shocking coaching change with two months to go before the Winter Games.
Canada wound up winning 3-2 in overtime against the U.S. after rallying to tie the game late in the third period to secure their fourth straight Olympic gold medal.
"I am ... proud of who I am and proud to have the courage to share who I am with you," she wrote. "I'm a four-time Olympian. I am the daughter of wonderful parents and the sister of a very special brother. I am friends with people who fascinate me, support me and without whom I could not live out my dreams. I am a student and I get my masters from McGill University this fall.
"I am gay and proudly authentic."