Monday, August 15, 2016


Traditionally, athletes went to compete in the modern Olympic Games to earn glory for oneself, for one’s county, or for both. They went to prove themselves the best in the world, or probably to enjoy all privileges and fringe benefits of being a country’s Olympic representative, especially if that nation is a global power who can afford the best conditioning and treatment for their athletes. Ideally, they also went to make new friends from many nations, even if for only short while. The Olympics normally isn’t the venue one would go to when looking for love, but sometimes, or more like in the case of this year’s games in Rio, they just happen and more so.

On Sunday August 14, diver He Zi of China won silver to her teammate’s gold at the women’s 3-meter springboard final. She was probably expecting nothing more than to stand on the winners’ podium, share in the national anthem with her gold medalist comrade, get her medal and souvenirs, and take off to celebrate with her team.

So imagine her surprise when the 25-year old diver was approached by a teammate from the men’s diving squad, 30-year old Qin Kai, who also happened to be her boyfriend of six years. Then, in a motion so often emulated it may have become genetic – and caught on NBC’s Olympic coverage to boot – Qin got on one knee and produced a box with a ring and a red rose in a glass case.

In her own words to reporters when recounting that momentous event, He Zi mentions that she had no idea her fellow diver and beau would choose that occasion to pop the question, after “saying a lot of things and making a lot of promises”, but despite thinking that it was a bit too early for her to consider marriage, she gave her new fiancée a hug and said yes.

Qin, who won bronze on the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard, then gave a victorious thumbs-up to the enthusiastic crowd. With his silver medalist wife-to- be, they have made gold.

Such a romantic proposal is rare enough to take place at the Games. In fact, the very first time it happened was only a week before, making it two athlete marriage proposals in a single Olympics. The first and groundbreaking event Monday August 8, when in the middle of the announcement for the winners of the first Olympic women’s rugby sevens final, a volunteer manager for the rugby venue at Deodoro Stadium walked out onto the pitch and asked, live on mic, her 2-year partner Isadora Cerullo of Team Brazil to marry her. With no ring on hand, Marjorie Enya tied a gold ribbon on Cerullo’s finger instead before they kissed, as the people on the pitch and stands (what remained, anyway) burst into applause.

This earlier interlude is also significant due to the fact that in Rio this year, a record has been set for the largest number of out and about LGBT participants to the Games. Different survey groups reveal that anywhere from 41 to 49 Rio Olympians are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Those figures are nearly or over double the 23 known ones from London 2012.

So really, be they boyfriend and girlfriend, or girlfriends or boyfriends, when it comes to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Love Wins, and wins big.

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