Conor McDermott-Mostowy Pride month


Pride Skates Fast with Conor McDermott-Mostowy

by Betsy Richards

It is a week of early mornings, long days in the saddle, and countless memories with some of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting,” said Long-Track National Team Member, Conor McDermott-Mostowy.

If you’ve been a part of the speed skating world for any amount of time, you might have assumed this was in reference to some sort of training camp. Running, biking, sitting in basic position whilst baking under the hot sun with your teammates––nothing beats the suffering that comes along with summer conditioning. But McDermott-Mostowy had other plans for the start of his offseason.

I had no idea the impact the ride would actually have on me. Being a gay man in sports can be isolating, and living in Utah doesn’t provide a large vibrant gay community to be a part of, so participating in the ride was a surreal and profoundly energizing experience.

“The ride” McDermott-Mostowy is referring to, is none other than AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC): a 545-mile cycling tour that starts in San Francisco, ends in Los Angeles, and raises funds for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. At first, ALC offered a much needed break from the physical and emotional toll coming off of a rough Olympic season. But McDermott-Mostowy no longer views this ride as an escape.

It’s a return to community and a reminder of the profound impact AIDS had on the LGBT population and the US,” he said. “We, the LGBT youth, lost a whole generation of mentors, teachers, and parents, and there are still many people living with HIV today.

What has always differentiated McDermott-Mostowy from the pack is his ability to maintain perspective––that the world is bigger than the oval he skates on. He’s a loyal friend, dedicated student, and an absolute wizard on the espresso machine (just to name a few). But above all else, McDermott-Mostowy understands himself to be the beneficiary of this epic legacy of queer, professional athletes.

Gus Kentworthy’s [British-American former freestyle skier] coming out in 2015 actually coincided with my own coming out to my family and friends while I was still in high school. Although I knew that there were other gay athletes, he’s the first one that I distinctly remember as a kid.

It was made easier too, knowing that he wasn’t alone in the pursuit of his speedskating dreams, as 7x World Champion, 3x Olympian, and 2x Olympic medalist, Brittany Bowe, has long been a beacon for young queer athletes.

It always made me feel more comfortable to know that there was another gay speed skater in the US and competing at the highest level of the sport,” he said. “I consider myself lucky to have grown up to be her teammate and regard her as a friend now.

Representation is a large reason as to why McDermott-Mostowy publicly came out in 2021. He hopes that in living openly, he can set an example and be available as a resource for other queer kids in the sport. And according to Sammy Holmes, former U.S. short-tracker and current program coordinator for the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the value of visibility cannot be overlooked.

If youth do not see themselves, or their communities, represented and adequately supported and cared for within speed skating, how are they going to feel that this sport is right for them?” Holmes asked. “For the longevity of this sport within the U.S., it is important to sit with these questions, and to think critically about who is and who isn’t visible.

Though perhaps even more imperative than the visibility of LGBTQ+ skaters, Holmes and McDermott-Mostowy agreed, is the allyship of fellow coaches and teammates. In speaking to LGBTQ+ speed skaters across the country, this was the number one concern raised in regard to how we can create safer spaces for queer people.

It is SO easy to make jokes that can cause kids to feel like they need to be in the closet,” a US Speedskating master’s skater said. “And it happens so often, even in the most welcoming of sports.

Nathan Miller, a former U.S. long-tracker and current Speed Skating Events Coordinator at the Pettit National Ice Center, also stressed the importance of providing LGBTQ+ kids with a solid support system.

There are kids out there that feel alone and unworthy of love, so it is everyone’s job to ensure that they have the compassion and support to keep living and be proud of who they are.

According to Holmes, the ways in which we can continue to create affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ people are inherently linked to efforts such as Safe Sport.

The creation of spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ skaters is rooted in similar values to the Safe Sport training that already occurs,” they stated. “We must provide coaches, as well as skaters, with the proper training and tools to ensure that all athletes feel safe and affirmed within USS environments.

And while the work is far from over, USS is definitely on the right track. Fortunately for all of the LGBTQ+ folks that I spoke to, speedskating has provided one of the most inclusive atmospheres in their lives to date.

I have found speed skating to be the most welcoming community in all respects,” said Nationals Master’s Champion and Bay State Speedskating member, Sara Cushman. “It is such a small, oddball sport, and I mean that in a loving way. I have always gotten the feeling from everyone I have met that everybody is welcome. People just want to share their love of skating.

Speed skating, though a pursuit in and of itself, has also become a means by which skaters have come to grips with their own queerness.

In many ways, a lot of this self-discovery that speed skating provided me also supported me in understanding my own identity as queer person,” Holmes said. “Although the skating world is still learning and growing in how to best support queer and trans athletes, we are here (and have been here for years) and are an important part of what makes this community.

As one of the most accomplished LGBTQ+ members in the sport, McDermott-Mostowy doesn’t deny that the climb to the top is difficult; it absolutely is. But time and time again, he has been met with kindness and understanding from the USS community; and that has made all the difference.

For any young LGBT kid looking for a sport, I think speed skating is a great choice…that is not to say that being a speed skater, especially at the World Cup level won’t be a sacrifice. In addition to the physical work required, it is isolating to rarely be around other gay people, but you will have a supportive community around you. And you will always have an advocate in me.

US Speedskating Conor McDermott-Mostowy
US Speedskating