Sochi 2014: Gay snowboarder Belle Brockhoff will limit protest

An openly gay snowboarder says she will not speak out against Russian "anti-gay laws" during the Sochi Games, to avoid jeopardising her "Olympic dream".

Australia's Belle Brockhoff also says her parents are worried for her safety.

"I'm not afraid to express my opinion after the Games, but I don't want any official to pull me aside or someone stop me at the border," she said.

She added she would not do "anything crazy", like wave a rainbow flag at Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Belle Brockhoff

Belle Brockhoff
  • Born: 12 January 1993
  • Season's best: ninth at snowboard cross World Cup in Andorra
  • Career best: World Cup bronze in Montafon, Austria, in December 2012
  • Publicly came out in an interview with Australia's ABC in August 2013. "It was a pretty spontaneous thing to do but it's had a lot of positive effects," she said
  • Brockhoff says she would "much rather be called the great snowboarder or fearless snowboarder - preferably fearless - than 'the gay snowboarder.' That's kind-of weird. But I'm chilled with that, right now"

The flag symbolises diversity and is often used to represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities

Brockhoff, who will compete in snowboard cross at the Winter Olympics, has been among the most outspoken athletes on the issue of Russia and gay rights.

The topic has gained even more publicity the closer the Games get, with the action due to get under way on Thursday, followed by the opening ceremony on Friday.

Activists who oppose Russia's new legislation banning gay 'propaganda' towards children believe it only adds to widespread persecution of the LGBT communities.

Putin recently told reporters: "We don't have a ban on non-traditional sexual relations. We have a ban on promoting homosexuality and paedophilia among minors.

"We are not banning anything and we won't arrest anyone. You can feel free in your relationships but leave children in peace."

Speaking from her pre-Games base in Austria, Brockhoff told BBC Sport she is worried about how the LGBT community in Russia is being treated.

"Right now, there's a law out there that's almost encouraging the rest of the population to discriminate against the gays," she said.

"I'm not going to go around to every kid in Russia and say, 'Hey, gay is OK.' That's not why I'm there. I was never even thinking about doing that. I just want to support the LGBT community."

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said last week that athletes in Sochi should not use the Games as "a stage for political demonstrations, however good the cause may be".

He did, however, add that athletes were "absolutely free" to make political statements in media conferences connected with their events.

"During the whole Games, I won't be getting into anything political, it's not why I'm there," said Brockhoff.

"I want to go there because I'm not afraid of these laws and I want others that live in Russia, who are homosexuals, to see that."

'I want to listen to Putin'

Quotes attributed to Brockhoff in January suggested she was "willing to rip on Putin's ass" after her event at the Games:

"That was a joke. I got carried away. I want to listen to what Putin has to say, or what his government has to say as to why these laws are in place and what they're actually doing to help protect the LGBT community.

"The feedback has been mostly positive. I've had a lot of support. I got some Twitter abuse - 'Belle Brockhoff, I hope you get arrested in Russia, you dowdy, horrible, aggressive dyke.'

"I won't share the name but this guy, he actually created this one account to send that tweet to me. I feel pretty special. Thank you."

She added that her parents are "so worried" about her competing in Sochi and send her messages all the time.

Her father is concerned the media will "crucify" her in the lead-up to these Games, which start later this week, while her mother fears her daughter may be targeted by Russian police.

"I'm sure Putin's already reading about me or other athletes who have said things," added Brockhoff.

The Australian does plan one limited form of protest, involving principle six of the IOC charter,  which reads as follows: "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."

Brockhoff said: "The most I'll do is put up six fingers when there is a camera on me, for principle six.

"It is a way athletes and non-athletes can voice their opinions about discrimination without exactly protesting."

She added that winning a gold medal would help get her message across

"I'll make my opinion heard, but I also know that if I don't get a gold medal, most people won't care about my opinion," she said. "People only care about your opinion if you win gold, or if you've made it big-time before."