(CBS/AP) – Brian Boitano decided to keep his sexual orientation private until he was appointed to the delegation that will represent the United States at the Sochi Olympics.

Boitano, who was born in Mountain View and now lives in San Francisco, came out with a statement Thursday that said he had chosen to keep his sexual orientation private because “being gay is just one part of who I am.”

Boitano, along with former U.S. hockey player Caitlin Cahow, was chosen by President Barack Obama this week to represent the U.S. at the 2014 Games in Sochi. The decision to include openly gay and lesbian athletes — Billie Jean King also is a member — and exclude high-ranking government officials has been interpreted as response to a new Russian law banning “gay propaganda.”

“First and foremost I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance,” said the 1988 figure skating gold medalist. “As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations.”

Cato came out last month when she realized she could help athletes who were struggling with their sexual orientation.

“I think each individual has a right to define who they are,” Cahow told the The Associated Press on Thursday. “That’s what autonomy is all about.”

“I think he and I would agree that our goal is to someday live in a world where these classifications aren’t important,” she told the AP. “I don’t personally identify as a gay person. I understand that is my role right now. I am speaking for a lot of people, and a lot of people are looking to me to bear the torch, and represent them. I want to do my best.”

Cahow said it was an honor to represent her country, just as it was when she won a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics in Turin and a silver in Vancouver in ‘10. Being asked by the president to do so for the Sochi Games made her feel “incredibly humbled and elated,” she said.

A Harvard graduate who is due to get her law degree from Boston College in the spring, Cahow is one of the 35 Olympians supporting the Principle 6 Campaign, which is named for the section of the International Olympic Committee charter that says its mission is: “to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement.” But Rule 50 of the IOC charter says: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.

Cahow said that’s unlikely.

“I think politics and the Olympics are always going to be intertwined. It’s impossible not to,” Cahow said. “It’s a remarkable opportunity for people to invest in and get swept away in the events. I’m hoping the Sochi Games will be no exception.”

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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