Belgium’s Only Male Olympic Skater Is Competing In His First Games As An Out Gay Man

"My orientation is not a factor when I skate," says Jorik Hendrickx.

The Winter Olympics are here, and LGBT fans are excited for Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy, the first two out American men competing in a Winter Games. But Jorik Hendrickx, the only male figure skater on Team Belgium, is also breaking new ice, er, ground: Pyeongchang marks his first Olympics as an out gay man.

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The 25-year-old from Turnhout, Antwerp, is a two-time national skating champion. He made his Olympic debut at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, placing 16th. Earlier this month, he came out in an interview with Zizo Belgium.

Although people in his life knew, Hendrickx says he wasn’t prepared to go public at Sochi.

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“When I wasn’t ready to talk about my homosexuality, I focused on the sport,” he added. “”My orientation is not a factor when I skate.”

Sexuality aside, Hendrickx’s journey to Pyeongchang wasn’t an easy one: Shortly after the 2014 Winter Games, he suffered a serious knee injury requiring surgery and his recovery took longer than expected.

Hendrickx says he “fell into a black hole” when he couldn’t skate, turning to his studies for solace. Now, he has a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the Johan Cruijff Academy, specializing in sports marketing.

This Olympics is something of a family affair for Hendrickx, who qualified for the 2018 Games in September 2017, months after his younger sister, fellow figure skater Loena Hendrickx, qualified, too.

The pair started a fundraising campaign to help bring their parents to Pyeongchang to see them compete—at more than $1,700, the airfare alone was too costly. “Skaters do not get free tickets for their family members at this level,” the siblings wrote. “Please help our mom realize her dream to see us both perform.” (They managed to raise more than $5,500.)

Hendrickx says he’s “realistic” about his goals for the 2018 Games, which will likely be his final Olympics “”Above all, I want to perform well. I have improved, but also my competitors. If my performance is good in itself, then I am satisfied.”

If you want to see Jorik compete, he’ll be hitting the ice about 10am Korea time (8pm EST) on February 16 and 17. Or check out his performance at the 2018 European Championships below.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.