Competing in the pairs’ short program at the 2022 Winter Olympics, figure skater Timothy LeDuc made history. Skating alongside partner Ashley Cain-Gribble, LeDuc became the first publicly out nonbinary athlete to compete at the Olympic Winter Games.
“I watched the Olympics 20 years ago, that’s why I started skating,” they said. “Skating around before the program and seeing the rings, it was like, I can’t believe we’re here. We worked so hard and we finally made it.”
LeDuc and Cain-Gribble’s short program – skated to selections from The White Crow soundtrack by Ilan Eshkeri – earned them 74.13 points, a season-best score for the duo. They head into the free skate ranked seventh overall. China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong currently lead the pairs’ event, while the other American duo of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier are in sixth with 74.23 points. (If you didn’t wake up in time to watch the pairs’ short program this morning, it will air again tonight on NBC’s primetime show.)
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Two days before the short program, Cain-Gribble sustained an injury in training.
“For it to happen right before the short program was tough, but I just relied on my team and on Timothy,” Cain-Gribble said.
“When it happened we weren’t even really worried,” LeDuc added. “I didn’t feel any anxiety because – in the last six years – I’ve seen the way she’s such a fighter and the way she overcomes adversity.”
After winning the 2022 U.S. title in January, LeDuc offered some thoughts on the way they hope their story is told.
“My hope is that when people see my story, it isn’t focused on me and saying, ‘Oh, Timothy is the first out non-binary person to achieve this level of success in sport,'” they said. “My hope is that the narrative shifts more to, ‘Queer people can be open and successful in sports.’ We’ve always been here, we’ve always been a part of sports. We just haven’t always been able to be open.
“I know that me being here – and being able to be out now – is only possible because of the many great people who came before me. I stand on the shoulders of so many amazing queer people that have pushed their way through this sport, allowing me to be open now.”
Since teaming up in 2016, LeDuc and Cain-Gribble have brought a new perspective to pairs’ skating, an event that has historically relied on a narrow set of gender and romantic stereotypes.
“When Timothy and I teamed up, we never wanted to be what was looked at as the traditional team,” Cain-Gribble explained on a recent episode of the NBCLX podcast My New Favorite Olympian (embedded below). “We want people to look at our skating and know that they don’t have to change who they are in order to be a part of this sport… You shouldn’t have to fit a mold.”
“As a person that exists and really thrives outside of the binary, it can be very complicated sometimes navigating a gendered sport,” LeDuc said as part of that same episode.
The pairs’ figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics concludes with the free skate, which will take place on Saturday at 6am ET in the United States (7pm in Beijing).
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC