Esther Lofgren is a Harvard-educated, gold medalist rower whose athletic talents are certainly matched by her wits and eloquence, as witnessed by this conversation she had with Principle 6 and Athlete Ally Advisor Laura Clise.
L: Why are you an Ally?
E. As an athlete, I believe we play our best when we’re totally free to be ourselves. We perform to our fullest potential when we can let go of everything else and just be athletes. Being an Ally means supporting my fellow athletes in whatever capacity I can so that they are able to do just that. It’s something that not all athletes, that not all people have the opportunity to experience. I want to support athletes and tomorrow’s athletes everywhere in being able to be themselves.
L: What has inspired you to speak out?
E: Learning about the Athlete Ally organization has created the opportunity to be a part of a movement – a collective group of people standing together for the athletic community and global community they want to create. As an Olympic athlete, I wanted to make my voice heard and show my support, and to commit to contributing to that community in my sport and in the athlete community as well.
L: What obstacles did you have to overcome to start speaking out?
E: Like many current athletes, I initially hesitated, not because of a lack of support for the movement, but out of concern that speaking out might detract from the focus on Olympic athletes competing in Sochi, including those representing the U.S. The members of the 2014 Olympic team have trained for years to have the honor of representing the U.S. at the highest level, and the last thing I would want to do is somehow distract focus from the work they’ve put in despite the importance of a topic like human rights. But when I thought about it little bit more, I thought of those not represented at the upcoming Olympic Games, and I thought of the athletes who aren’t able to go out and just be themselves – people who aren’t free in every way to just be who they are. Ultimately, I believe that we can talk about human rights and non-discrimination in the same sentence as recognition of athletic achievement and the Olympics, because fundamentally, the Olympic message is about inclusion—the celebration of and respect for sport and humanity and community—and about the world coming together.