This is the twenty-first in a series of articles profiling known out and proud Olympic athletes who are openly LGBT. The New Civil Rights Movement will publish one article each day as we move through the London 2012 Olympics.
If you are looking for an Olympic sport that’s both fun to watch and easy to understand, check out Triathlon. It’s an individual sport, raced against the course and the clock. It takes less than 1 hour 50 minutes, and in the London Olympics, the course has been set in world-famous Hyde Park.
The competitors begin by diving off a floating pontoon into a natural body of water, (no pools!) for a 1500 meter freestyle swim. Then they bicycle 43 kilometers (7 laps of a 6km course) which is followed immediately by a 10km run, (4 laps of a 2.5 km track.) The clock never stops, but you will see the time posted in five sections, the three races and the two transition times – the time it takes an athletes change, without help, from one race mode to the next.
Triathlon is a polite sport; impeding another racer can get you disqualified. Drafting during the biking portion will get you a time penalty; riders must stay 3 meters apart except while passing. The congenial quality of the race works in favor of two of the top tier triathletes who represent France, Carole Peon and Jessica Harrison. The women hail from the same Triathon Club, Poissy, and train with same coach, Stephanie Gros. The two are considered France’s premier triathletes. They are also a couple. Carole Peon and Jessica “Jess” Harrison have been together for seven years, but both are now after the same gold medal at the London Olympic games.
Jess was born in the U.K. in 1977, and at the age of 15 raced for Britain in Junior World Cup Triathlon. She moved to France for college, eventually obtaining a post graduate degree in sports science. In 2005 her application for French citizenship was granted and Jess began to represent France in Triathlon World Cup.
Carole was born in Nice, France in 1978, but didn’t become interested in triathlon until she was 19. She began World Cup Triathlon racing in 2005, the same year Jessica began to compete for France. Carole was dating a woman and the time, and Jess had a boyfriend. “I was initially a bit surprised that a girl can make an impression, but I quickly got used to the idea.” Said Jess about her budding relationship with Carole.
The partners have always been open about their relationship, but tried to keep their private life private. “Would I make a statement to announce I was dating a boy?” Jess asked. So why would I make one in our case, like it was something wrong?” Carole brushed the subject off remarking “Whatever the enemy, I’m fair game. The fact that Carole is my girlfriend doesn’t alter that fact.” Jess and Carole did sit down and talk candidly about their life together in the 2012 documentary “Sports and Homosexuality, What Is The Problem?” by director Michel Royer.
Making their competition at the Olympics even more exciting is the fact that both Carole and Jess are at high watermarks in their careers. Jess has been named French Triathlon Champion three years running and is current ranked 10th in the ITU World Cup standings. Carole has an impressive nine World Cup top ten finishes on her resume, and is currently ranked 31st.
Both Carole and Jess won their first ITU World Cup titles last year. Jess secured her World Cup victory in Tongyeong in October 2011, where Carole, who was injured, did not race. The very next month Carole, made a triumphant return on landslide-shortened course, snagging the lead spot at the ITC World Cup in Guatape, Colombia, where Jess finished fourth.
Update: Women’s Triathlon was held Saturday, August 4 at 9:00 London time in Historic Hyde Park. Jessica Harrison started 12th. Carole Peon started 14th but both women fell short of a medal, Jess finishing 9th and Carole 29th – but the partners shared a long hug when the competition was over.
Follow our series: “2012 Olympics: Who Are The LGBT Athletes?” as we profile all the out LGBT athletes playing in the London 2012 Olympic games.
Jean Ann Esselink is straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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