Olympic Champion Anja Paerson is one of skiing’s greatest athletes. Since her debut in the 1988 World Cup, the Swedish alpine racer has earned 19 championship medals, 42 World Cup victories and two overall World Cup titles (in 2004 and 2005). In addition to crushing it throughout the World Cup circuit, Paerson was a three-time Olympian and took home six Olympic medals. During the 2002 Salt Lake City Games she earned silver in giant slalom and bronze in slalom, claimed gold in slalom during the 2006 Turnin Games where she also won two bronze medals in combined and downhill, and most recently a bronze medal in the 2010 Vancouver Games’ super-combined. Earlier this year the skier opted to retire from competition, with the Schladming World Cup event marking her final turns before transitioning to a quieter lifestyle. The lull in excitement would be short-lived for Anja, as the ski star made international headlines this past weekend when she confirmed to the world that she was involved in a long-term relationship with another woman.
Paerson made the revelation while hosting a program on Swedish public radio. She detailed that since 2005, she has developed a romantic relationship with girlfriend Filippa. She described the phenomenon of finding her partner by saying, ”I had never intended to fall in love with a woman. Never thought that my heart could beat so fast for a woman. I was insanely in love.”
She went on to explain her thought process on making such a public announcement, saying, ”I am tired of being someone else and of playing a game. I owe it to myself and especially to Filippa to tell the truth.”
Throughout her skiing career, Paerson’s personal life was a constant source of speculation, with Saturday’s reveal coming as more of a confirmation than surprise. The true shocker came towards the end of the program when Anja announced that she and Filippa would be expecting a child, and that she had known even during her many retirement conversations. ”I have known for almost nine months what I will do in the future. I am going to be a mother,” she said.
To some degree, situations like this should not be news. However, we still live in a world where some are still unready to accept same sex relationships. It is a tragic reality that Paerson was made to feel like she had to hide one of the most important aspects of her life to the rest of the world. After sharing so much of herself throughout her competitive skiing career, it is incredibly inspiring to live in an era where relationships like Anja’s are accepted and appreciated. Whether its love for a man, woman or a ridiculously amazing powder day — individuals should not only be free to pursue what makes them happy, but feel comfortable doing so in the public eye.