For Pride month, we’ve dedicated each day of June to an individual athlete or coach whose shining moment changed LGBTQ sports.
The 1988 Winter Olympics are remembered for the Jamaican bobsled team, Dan Jansen’s tragedy, a second consecutive gold medal for Katarina Witt… and the “Battle of the Brians.”
Hosted in Calgary, the Olympic men’s singles figure skating competition featured Canadian Brian Orser and American Brian Boitano in one of the most thrilling men’s figure-skating competitions in history.
Leading up to the 1988 Winter Olympics, Orser seemed to have the edge. In 1984, he had won the Olympic silver medal while Boitano finished fifth. Orser had also won the 1987 World Championship, with Boitano taking silver. Still, Boitano had won the 1986 World title, and it was clear headed to Calgary that the men’s singles title would be the “Battle of the Brians.”
The men’s singles competition was in three parts: Compulsory (won by Boitano), a short program (won by Orser), and then a long program. The results of the first two were so close that it was a virtual tie; Whoever won the long program would be the gold medalist.
Just like the first two rounds, the scoring of the long program was a nail-biter. All nine of the judges ranked Boitano and Orser either first or second, with Boitano winning the gold with a 5-4 split of the judges.
While the two men weren’t publicly out at the time, it was still a great moment when two gay men ruled the sports headlines and dominated sports conversation around the world.
Orser has gone on to be a wildly successful coach, most notably helping Yuzuru Hanyu to back-to-back Olympic titles in 2014 and 2018, in addition to other World Championship and Olympic medalists.
Boitano came out publicly in 2013 after being named to the United States delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
We’ll have another Moment of Pride tomorrow and every day in June.