Cedar Rapids figure skater Timothy LeDuc wants to inspire other athletes to be themselves
The Winter Olympics kick off at the end of this week in South Korea.
One Cedar Rapids native came close to scoring a spot in this year's Olympics, but he and his skating partner will be alternates for the USA's figure skating team.
And although he won't be headed to South Korea -- he and his partner are standing by in case they get that call.
Timothy LeDuc is not your average figure skater, he left average behind a pretty long time ago.
When you often have the words "world class" come before your name, remember where it all started truly takes some reaching back.
"I see this place I remember oh that's where I landed my first axel, that's where I did my scratch spin, I remember competing in Iowa games here, it reminds me of why I do this and why I'm so passionate about this sport," says LeDuc when he recalls skating at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
He's also not afraid to admit he's gay.
"Some people say oh a gay figure skater, big surprise, some people would think it's not groundbreaking but surprisingly there are very few openly gay athletes in the sport of figure skating," he laughs.
Unlike most skaters, he wasn't out here when he was 3 or 4 years old, instead, Timothy was 13-years-old and started up after watching the 2002 Winter Olympics.
But being a "gay" added some extra challenges.
He remembers one experience while searching for a partner for pair skating.
"We were seeing if we would be a good match on the ice and the mother of this girl that I was trying out with asked if I had a girlfriend too which I said no I'm gay, and she said oh my goodness, you need to keep that to yourself, that's going to make us look really bad," LeDuc said.
Another skater told LeDuc she didn't want to skate with him because she thought he would be too weak to lift her.
Despite these obstacles, he built up his skills and earned a spot on Team USA at the 2017 World Team Trophy, where the U.S. took third place.
Last year he made the decision to come out openly to the world as a gay figure skater, a move he hopes will inspire others.
"I want to be that beacon and to be that voice for that young queer person, who doesn't understand what they're feeling or needs someone to tell them that it's okay to be themselves and to accept what makes them different," he said.
He tells us he wants others to know it's very important to understand, what makes you different is what makes you beautiful.
Even though LeDuc and his partner Ashley Cain placed fourth in the Olympic trials, they aren't stopping anytime soon.
The pair will begin training for the 2022 Olympics.