Stapleton Pre-Teen Aspires to Be First Hetero Male Olympic Figure Skater

Hetero Ice DancerMany people were inspired by SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam’s announcement that he is gay. If (when) he is drafted, Sam will become the NFL’s first openly gay player. This type of courage inspired millions, but no one may have been more inspired than Stapleton 12 year old Andy Bukatz. “He is a hero of mine,” said Bukatz. “It gave me the courage to talk to my parents about who I am, and then of course, my coaches.”

Bukatz is a hard-working athlete like many of his friends. “I play lots of sports, including football, baseball, and basketball,” says Bukatz. “But, my favorite sport, and where I do the best, is ice skating.” Bukatz works with a coach and team of ice skaters in Castle Rock. “We have practice four days a week, and it is almost 15 hours a week of practice,” said Bukatz. “But it is what I love.” It is not necessarily unique that Bukatz enjoys ice dancing, what makes him unique is that unlike other male ice dancers, Bukatz is heterosexual.

“It was hard when I told my teammates,” said Bukatz. “I just didn’t know how they were going to react. It was great that they were all so supportive, and didn’t judge me. I think a lot of them already had a feeling that I was hetero, so the announcement probably wasn’t that big of news to them.” Bukatz says his parents were just as supportive when they heard the news. “We always kind of knew he was hetero,” said Bukatz’s father Alan. “He enjoyed trucks when he was little, loves tough-guy type movies, and never had any interest playing with dolls. So, it wasn’t that big of a deal to us, and we want him to be who he is.”

Bukatz coach Grigory Baranov says he supports Andy and this does not change his goals. “We still plan on Andy competing one day in Olympic,” said Baranov. “He has talent, and he work hard. It not matter who he prefer to keep night company with. We want Olympic gold medal.” Grigory acknowledges that Andy will face some challenges that other skaters will not face. “There will be discrimination, especially early. Judges may not like that he like girl instead of boy, but eventually his skating will overcome that.”

Andy says the timing was right to come out now. “With Sam coming out and saying who he is, it seemed like the right time for me. Also, if I can get it out of the way now, it hopefully will not be as big as a deal when I do qualify for the Olympics. Maybe I can just be another great skater competing for the gold.” Andy may not completely understand the magnitude of his announcement. The NFL has had thousands of players over the years, and more than likely, there has already been gay athletes in the NFL. Figure skating became an Olympic sport in 1924, and through these 90 years, to a man, every male figure skater has been openly gay. “I am proud of Andy,” said former American figure skater and NBC broadcaster Johnny Weir. “Will this be good for figure skating, is this going to open doors, will other skaters be receptive, these are the questions that time will have to answer.”

Many ice skaters took to social media to give their thoughts about Andy, which were mostly positive. @JohnnyGWeir wrote: “Andy Bukatz, you go girl! Be who you are. Best of success and hope to see you with Gold! #yougogirl. @Tara_Lipinski wrote: “So great to see someone come out of the closet of being in the closet. Go for gold Andy!” 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek commented on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “It’s extremely courageous. I would say it’s bigger than Jackie Robinson. I mean, at one point, we knew African Americans were going to play baseball. But, who could’ve foreseen this?” On the same program, 1948 and 1952 Olympic gold medalist Dick Button expressed his concern. “For a lot of these skaters, having someone a little different around is going to be hard. For example, will a hetero be more aggressive and potentially pick fights in locker rooms and staging areas. From what I know about heteros, they aren’t always that easy to get along with. I mean, can you imagine a gracious hetero loser? I think it will cause some imbalances in the sport, and it won’t be a good thing.”

Right now, Bukatz is just taking it one double axel at a time, as he prepares for the junior nationals coming up in April. “It will be my first major competition since the announcement,” says Andy. “I am excited, but nervous to see the reaction, not just of the judges, or my competitors, but the crowd.” Heading into the event, it already seems Andy has won over many hearts, both gay and hetero.

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