This is the ninth in a series of articles profiling known out and proud Olympic athletes who are openly LGBT. The New Civil Rights Movement will publish one article each day as we move into the London 2012 Olympics.
June 30, after the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) defeated Canada 2-1 in a 2012 Olympic Send-Off Match in Sandy, Utah, Pia Sundhage said, “We are ready… I only have good things to say about the team. We are full of confidence and we’ll have fun at the Olympics.”
In June, 2010, it was the same confidence that led then 49-year-old Pia Sundhage, the Swedish head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, to come out as gay on Swedish TV. After singing Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin,” Sundhage said, “There has been no problem for me to be openly gay as head coach in the U.S.” During her interview with TV host Lasse Bengtsson, she also disclosed that she has a girlfriend named Mari.
Well, times sure have changed since Sundhage began kicking the ball around. “I started when I was five or six and had to play with boys because there were no girls’ or women’s teams. But I was always one of the first to be picked.”
Her playing skills earned her a place on the national squad when she was only 15. “It was in 1975 against England and we won 2-0 in Gothenburg. The national coach rang me up and I read a report in the paper too, which was obviously a very big thing for me at 15. But I wasn’t nervous because I had quite good technical skills, more so than some of the others, and that made me comfortable with the group.” She went on to become a national hero.
The confidence and talent that distinguished Sundhage’s playing is reflected in her coaching. After a distinguished career in her native Sweden, she became an assistant with the Philadelphia Charge in 2001. A year later she was named head coach of the Boston Breakers, only the second female coach in Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) history. Sundhage was named Coach of the Year in her first season.
After a short time as an assistant to the Chinese National Team In 2007, Sundhage became the first foreign head coach of our WNT. Under Sundage, the team won the 2008 Algarve Cup in Portugal as well as the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
And it is Sundhage’s determination and confidence in her players’ abilities that has helped make the USWNT, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA’s) top-ranked women’s soccer team with a great chance to win the Gold again in 2012.
Follow our series: “2012 Olympics: Who Are The LGBT Athletes?” as we profile all the out LGBT athletes playing in the London 2012 Olympic games.
Stuart Wilber. Photo by Mathew Ryan Williams
Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his partner in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980’s when they moved to San Clemente, CA in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. They moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after British Columbia legalized same-sex marriage. Although legally married in some countries, they are only considered domestic partners in Washington State. Equality continues to elude him.
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