Retired skier Paerson speaks out on gay rights

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 7, 2014 at 3:16 am •  Published: February 7, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Anja Paerson is embracing her post-competition career with the same kind of enthusiasm she showed off with her customary, celebratory belly flops on the snow.

After all, the Swedish skiing great has a lot to be excited about these days. She's a mother. She's working on TV, and she's back at the Olympics.

Shortly after retiring two years ago, Paerson announced that she was in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend Filippa, ending years of speculation regarding her private life.

The couple's son, Elvis, was born a few weeks later.

Paerson is working at the Sochi Olympics as an analyst for Swedish satellite TV provider Viasat and, since she's here, she doesn't mind discussing her opposition to Russia's laws against gay propaganda.

"I don't agree with them and I think a lot of people don't agree," Paerson said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But it's good to discuss it.

"It's an important statement for Sweden that I don't allow anyone to choose how I should live my life — and that's why I'm here and that's why I'm doing this."

Having won six Olympic medals, 13 world championship medals, 42 World Cup races and two overall World Cup titles, Paerson also has a lot of insight on skiing to offer TV viewers.

But first she's learning the challenges of her new job — such as making sure she requests course permits at nightly coaches' meetings — and says the logistics are giving her a headache.

"It's such a complicated system. It's crazy," Paerson said. "You have to call this guy and you have to book it in advance. And every day do this, and this, and this — it's much easier as an athlete."

At 32, Paerson still appears to be in racing shape. So does she ever think about returning?

"When you see it you want to go, of course, but I have no regret quitting," she said. "But when I'm here, for sure, if I had the choice then I would be racing."

Besides the Olympics, the only other event she attended recently was the season kickoff in Soelden, Austria. She prefers spending time with her family now.

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