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That sniggering stereotype has been prevalent for decades, even though few elite skaters have come out publicly, and only one, Rudy Galindo, came out during his Olympic-eligible career.This closet door is locked tight because skaters - gay and straight - know that so many of the people judging them, from judges to sponsors to TV viewers, want the female skaters to be "pretty ladies," and the men to be, well, And that's not how life, on or off the ice, works.As a result, the International Skating Union replaced its audience-friendly 6.0 scoring system with an anonymous, points-based alternative that fans still struggle to understand. As he writes in his new book, , "the names of the judges with their real marks are kept in a safe in Lausanne and only the general secretary and a notary can see them, if requested by the Technical Committees." Then, in advance of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Skate Canada launched a campaign to curtail the sport's dwindling audience - by manning up."The purpose of the new judging system is to hide everything," says renowned figure skater Dick Button, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, five-time world champion and seven-time U. At the time, television viewership in Canada had dropped more than 30 percent from the 1990s to the 2000s as big international stars like Stojko and Kurt Browning retired."Then they find out when they get older, 'Let's try to keep the sparkle down, because that's feminine and then they'll think you're gay.' And of course, they're saying that to some boys who are gay.", "at least seven of the 14 male Olympic figure skating medalists from the past 20 years are known in certain circles to be interested in other men.In fact, in at least five countries the entire men's singles figure skating team is made up of gay men (albeit some 'teams' are exactly one man)." That same year, figure skating expert Lorrie Kim wrote, "Unofficial insider estimates range from 25 percent to nearly 50 percent.

Fan interest started to wane in the aftermath of the overexposed Kerrigan-Harding saga, in which Harding's ex-husband clubbed Kerrigan in the leg right before the 1994 U. Figure Skating Championships, then again following a judging scandal at the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City, which exposed the many rigged competitions and political agendas within the sport.

The common assumption that male figure skaters are gay - and the latent and often blatant hostility behind it - is the sport's deep and dirty secret.

It colors the attitudes and actions of skaters, coaches, judges, officials and even the fans.

Canadian champion Brian Orser was publicly outed by an ex-boyfriend in a palimony suit in 1998. And Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic gold medalist, never intended to reveal his sexual orientation until President Obama appointed him, along with openly gay tennis legend Billie Jean King and openly gay ice hockey Olympian Caitlin Cahow, to the American Olympic delegation for the Sochi games.

Obama's move was a provocative reproach to Russia's new anti-gay law propaganda law that looms over what's set to be the Weir, the two-time Olympic figure skater and three-time U. champion who retired last fall, defied this prejudice and solidified his place as figure skating's gay darling by showing, not telling.

He wore a crown of red roses and hugged a heart-shaped pillow in the Olympic rink's "kiss and cry" area, and donned a costume lined in fox fur as well as a pink and black body suit. Open Pro Figure Skating Championships, he emulated Tonya Harding and Peggy Fleming before stripping off his long-sleeved black shirt to finish his artistic program in a shiny sleeveless vest."Back in my day, me and my compatriots were actively told to keep [being gay] a secret," says Mattis, who went on to have a successful professional skating and coaching career. We have to be Ken and Barbie, but the reality is that Ken is dating Ken and Barbie doesn't always want to look like Barbie, or at least act like Barbie."'They Want to Wear Sparkly Costumes'In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, figure skating prospered in Europe as an elite gentleman's sport.

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