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Brian Boitano promotes his new book "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" at Barnes & Noble, 5th Avenue and 18th Street on May 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
Two days after being named to the U.S. delegation for Sochi, Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano has announced he is gay -- his first public declaration about his sexual orientation, a decision he hadn't planned previously, NBC Bay Area has learned.
The 50-year-old 1988 gold medalist from Silicon Valley, who's now a Food Network host, told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday night from France that "being gay is just one part of who I am. ... I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations.''
Boitano is a Mountain View native and attended a Sunnyvale high school. He'll join Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow as openly gay athletes in the U.S. delegation at the opening and closing ceremonies in Sochi.
Including them is widely seen as a message from the White House to Russia about its treatment of gays and lesbians.
Boitano gained attention and fanfare outside the world of sports with the debut of "What Would Brian Boitano Do?", a silly South Park song about the skater back in 1999. Since then, Boitano took off with that theme, naming his Food Network cooking show, "What Would Brian Boitano Make?"
If anyone wanted to know what Boitano would have done had not Obama tapped him, the skater told NBC Bay Area Anchor Raj Mathai by phone from France on Wednesday night, exactly what he would have done. He said would have not come out publicly, had it not have been for the White House request to be part of the Olympic delegation.
Since being vetted for the post over the weekend however, Boitano told Mathai that even though he hadn't planned on announcing to the world that he was gay, he was happy to represent the United States for the sport he loves.
Still, Boitano added that he didn't want people to focus on his orientation, but on his accomplishments.
"While I am proud to play a public role in representing the American Olympic Delegation as a former Olympic athlete, I have always reserved my private life for my family and friends and will continue to do so," Boitano told Mathai by phone. " I am many things: a son, a brother, and uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am. First and foremost, I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance. As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations."
Boitano has had many accomplishments.
He won the bronze medal at the 1978 World Junior Figure Skating Championships; he became the first American to land a triple axel in 1982; and in 1987 he introduced his signature jump, the "Tano triple lutz'"in which the skater raises his left arm above his head.
Boitano placed second at the 1984 United States Figure Skating Championships, earning himself a trip to the 1984 Winter Olympics, where he placed fifth. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1988.
And when he's not skating, he's cooking. Boitano has a Food Network show called "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" where his show's tag is that he "gives a gold medal performance" in the kitchen.