Why Callum Skinner wore a rainbow tie to the White House
OLYMPIC cycling champion Callum Skinner jumped at the chance to address the White House on anti-doping in his sport.
But he also used the opportunity to show solidarity to another clause close to his heart.
Both Callum’s dad and brother are openly gay men.
And Callum – who is firm ally of the LGTB community – therefore opted to wear a rainbow tie and pin badge while in the residence of US President Donald Trump.
“Before we went in I did wear a rainbow pin badge and tie and I got one of the people to take a photo of me outside the office of Mike Pence who I think is a horrible homophobe,” Callum told the Run Free podcast.
“That was quite satisfying but I just didn’t feel I could go unless I showed some kind of solidarity.
“I respect the office enough to go regardless of who is in there but I felt as though I needed to send a message because fundamental parts of that administration don’t gel with who I am as a person and the people I love.
“That’s why I felt as though I needed to make a statement and a personal point really.”
Callum memorably won gold in the team sprint at Rio 2016.
But he opted to hide his dad’s sexuality during his cycling career.
“I’m pretty open about it now but my dad is an openly gay and married man and my brother is openly gay as well,” said Callum.
“It was something I always hid from sport because I didn’t think it would be the most accepting place.”
However, it was a completely different story for Callum during his school days.
“I went to a very liberal and laid back high school,” said Callum.
“There were other kids at school who had same sex parents, our headteacher danced on to stage to David Bowie at one point and we didn’t even have a uniform.
“Coming into British Cycling it was all about uniformity and it didn’t seem like a place I could be as open about things.”
But Callum felt things changed after he secured success in Brazil.
“After the Olympic Games I felt as though my career was in a good enough place for me to speak about it,” said Callum.
“It’s something that I’m quite keen to try and progress within sport too.
“Sport should be for everyone and it’s a cause I’m keen to advance as much as possible.”
As a result, Callum has worked for Stonewall, an LGBT rights charity.
“I’ve done a few bits for Stonewall where we have national congresses with the heads of Premier League clubs but a whole bunch of them just don’t get it,” said Callum.
“I’ll be sitting on stage with homosexual athletes and someone who might be transitioning and I just feel like some people in power are unable to associate with them.
“There’s genuine strength in having a campaign message come from someone a bit more relatable and that opens doors for them to build relationships with people who might traditionally have maybe found it scary.
“That’s what I feel as though I can offer to that movement.
“It’s a halfway house really and before you know it you’ll be as friendly with them as are you are with me and you’ll realise you have far more in common than you realise.”