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Belle Brockhoff is not afraid to speak her mind.
The 21-year-old Australian snowboarder came out as a lesbian in advance of the Sochi Games, a brave move given the anti-gay laws passed in Russia recently. Despite the controversy it could have stirred, Belle says everyone has been accepting and no one has given her a hard time. But she recognizes that other athletes might not have it as easy, and has worked closely with Athlete Ally and plans to do voluntary work with Beyond Blue, a depression support group.
The snow was always in Belle’s blood -- she started skiing at age three and her aunt is an Australian ski champ. She switched to the snowboard as a teenager and immediately knew she had the talent to make it to the Olympics. Two years ago she decided to specialize in boardercross and recently placed eighth at Sochi Olympic Games. Her goal is to win the world championships next year.
One of the biggest obstacles standing in her way is her lack of funding and recognition, another subject that caused controversy while Belle was competing. In a way, Belle was punished for being too good -- she and another athlete emerged as top contenders while all eyes were focused on another male snowboarder, who was funded to the tune of $330,000+ (Australian) per year. Despite the fact that $330,000 is a pretty tidy living, officials told Belle there were no extra funds for her, even though she had met all of qualifications needed for funding. A small grant was cobbled together after negotiations.
Belle clearly has the drive and the guts to speak out and compete to win. Her long term plans is to compete in 3 more Olympic Games and win Gold -- help her reach the world championships and prove her detractors wrong.
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