BEIJING, China — Figure skater Timothy LeDuc became the first nonbinary American athlete to compete at the Winter Games, joining up with Ashley Cain-Gribble for a strong short program to open their pairs competition Friday night.
Their score of 74.13 points was a season best and put them squarely in the top 10 entering Saturday’s free skate.
“It was such a joyous moment for us out there today,” LeDuc said.
When the music ended, Cain-Gribble took a small jump in excitement.
“I think both Ashley and I have had to overcome so many different things, so many times, where people who told us no or we don’t belong,” LeDuc said.
The 31-year-old LeDuc came out as nonbinary last year.
Shortly after LeDuc and Cain-Gribble took the ice for the pairs competition, Google Trends showed a spike in searches for "what is non binary" and "what is a non binary person."
The term is used to describe a person who does not identify as exclusively male or female, and can also encompass agender, bigender, genderqueer and gender-fluid.
LeDuc uses the pronouns they/them. During the live broadcast of the pairs competition, NBC analyst Tara Lipinski was discussing LeDuc and Cain-Gribble's performance when she used the wrong pronouns to identify LeDuc. Lipinski corrected herself and apologized a few minutes later on-air.
"I realize that I used the wrong pronouns for Tim. I will do better. Tim you deserve that," Lipinski said.
LeDuc joins other openly nonbinary Olympians from last year’s Tokyo Summer Games, including Canadian women’s soccer player Quinn, who became the first openly transgender and nonbinary Olympic medal winner when they earned gold. Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, skateboarder Alana Smith and cyclist Chelsea Wolfe — all transgender — also competed in those Summer Games, among at least 186 openly LGBTQ participants, as tracked by Outsports.
“Hopefully people watching this feel that there is space for them to come into figure skating and for them to be able to celebrate what makes them different,” LeDuc said.
LeDuc's Olympic debut was hard fought — having just missed making the team for Pyeongchang — especially as their team was nearly derailed by an injury two nights ago.
Cain-Gribble suffered an ankle sprain that affected her right landing foot. She said she was able to recover doing manual therapy with the team doctor.
“It was crazy that we had gone this far — you know, we’ve been here for over two weeks ... it had to happen right before the short,” Cain-Gribble said. “Those things happen, but you just have to learn to move forward.”
That setback showed in their performance when she two-footed the landing on their throw triple lutz. But they also landed their triple loop and received Level 4 grades on every other element.
“To see the people reaching out to both of us really means a lot,” LeDuc said. “It also reminds us that we are one of many, laying the ground for more people to come. I know for me to be openly nonbinary is only possible because amazing, great people before me had laid the groundwork for me.”