Figure skating gold medallist Brian Boitano has announced that he is gay just weeks before representing the US team at the Winter Olympics in Russia.

"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," Mr Boitano told USA Today.

Boitano's revelation comes two days after President Obama chose Mr Boitano and two openly gay athletes to lead the US delegation for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which have been criticised for endorsing Russia's homophobic laws.

Boitano feels honoured to be chosen as a delegate, but does not want to disclose any other information about his personal life.

"As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations. [...] I have always reserved my private life for my family and friends and will continue to do so."

Obama trying to provoke Putin?

Mr Obama's choice to appoint openly gay athletes for the Winter Olympics has been seen as a provocative message to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, after the crackdown on gay rights in Russia.

Russia has recently passed a law that bans gay propaganda.
The law makes it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, as well as the distribution of material on gay rights.

Andre Banks, the executive director of All Out, said, "It's hard to look at this delegation without seeing it as a criticism of Putin's anti-gay laws. ... What it's doing is showing the true power of the Olympics, the ability to move people, to change people's minds and open them up to new ways of thinking."

US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power met with international gay rights activists on Tuesday and said the Russian law is "as outrageous as it is dangerous".

"And it is a reminder that whether the struggle for equality takes the form of equal employee benefits or protection from being imprisoned or executed, we have a long way to go," Ms Power said.

However, Mr Putin has insisted that gay and lesbian athletes have nothing to fear at next year's Winter Olympics in Russia.

Mr Boitano believes that despite the political situation in Russia, the Olympics can still be a success.

'It has been my experience from competing around the world and in Russia that Olympic athletes can come together in friendship, peace and mutual respect regardless of their individual country's practices.'