|ESPN.com: Hockey||[Print without images]|
Canadian women's hockey goalie Charline Labonte announced she is gay in an online statement released Wednesday.
"I am gay and proudly authentic," she wrote in a story published by OutSports.com and LezSpreadTheWorld.com.
Labonte, 31, has been on the Canadian national team for 12 years. She won her fourth Olympic gold medal in February at the Sochi Games.
"I never felt I couldn't be free," Labonte wrote of her time with the team. "Just like everywhere else our team had gays and straights, just like we had brunettes and redheads. Everyone on my team has known I'm gay since I can remember and I never felt degraded for it. On the contrary, my sport and my team are the two environments where I feel most comfortable. The subject of homosexuality was never taboo with us. We talk and laugh about it like everything else.
"I feel privileged to live and be myself in an environment like this because I know that just a few years ago this topic was never a part of the conversations in the locker room."