Why Caitlyn Jenner Doesn’t Consider Her Olympic Medal Her Biggest Achievement

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
Four decades after winning an Olympic Gold Medal, Caitlyn Jenner is gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated — this time, lauded by the magazine as an "American Hero" who is finally "comfortable in her own skin."

In an interview featured in the new July 4–11 edition of the magazine, Jenner opens up about her complex relationship with the Gold Medal she received for winning the Olympic decathlona medal that now sits in her "nail drawer."

"Sports. It’s not real life," she told Sports Illustrated. "You go out there, you work hard, you train your ass off, win the Games. I’m very proud of that part of my life. And it’s not like I just want to throw it out. It’s part of who I am. What I’m dealing with now, this is about who you are as a human being. What did I do for the world in 1976, besides maybe getting a few people to exercise a little bit? I didn’t make a difference in the world."

She added that what's important to her now is making a difference by being a visible trans role model. "Glamour magazine Woman of the Year and Olympian decathlon gold medalist," she said. "This has got to be the greatest double of all time, right? It will never be matched."

Though her own experiences as an Olympic athlete are in the past, Jenner praised the Olympics for its progression. In January, the International Olympics Committee struck down old bylaws that required transgender athletes to undergo gender reassignment surgery before being allowed to compete. Jenner noted the country's continued debates over transgender bathroom laws to underline what she sees as the Olympics' forward-thinking policies.

"When you see what’s happening in this country on the bathroom controversy, politicians just don’t understand or get it at all. When it comes to this subject, the Olympic movement is far ahead of the rest of the world. Good for them."

That Jenner is the first out trans person to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated is a feat in and of itself, but the magazine's reference to her as "the most famous transgender person in history" speaks strongly to the kind of influence she wants to have.

In fact, Sports Illustrated, known for its annual swimsuit cover issue and for catering to a demographic that mostly consists of men, is taking a huge step towards inclusivity by covering trans issues. In one description, interviewer Tim Leyden writes, "The former world’s greatest athlete is wearing skinny jeans and a loose ivory sweater and wedge sandals. She has diamond stud earrings, her nails are painted pink, and her hair falls loosely to her clavicle. When she moves, she moves with the subtle grace of an athlete. Male or female — doesn’t matter. Athletic grace is athletic grace."

Indeed, the cover issue and the way in which Sports Illustrated frames Jenner's story signify a noteworthy moment for the trans community and the continued fight for awareness.

Read the full cover story on Sports Illustrated.

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