Mayssa PessoaMayssa Pessoa is the goaltender for the Brazilian national handball team at this year's Olympic Games. The 27-year-old plays for Issy Hand in Brazil.
Megan RapinoeMegan Rapinoe is a midfielder for the U.S. women's soccer team, and she also plays for the Seattle Sounders Women. Her sexuality has led to her becoming one of the best-known soccer players in the world. During an interview with Out.com, she said a German fan even tattooed her face on his back. She added: “I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out. ... In female sports, if you’re gay, most likely your team knows it pretty quickly.”
Maartje PaumenMaartje Paumen is a Dutch field-hockey player who, among many other honors, won gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2006 Madrid World Championships, and the 2011 EuroHockey Nations Championship.
Natalie Cook (left) is an openly gay australian OlympianNatalie Cook, left, is an Australian beach-volleyball player who won the gold medal during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. She quit her pursuit of a medical degree in 1994 to turn pro. Two years later, she won a bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics.
Matthew MitchamAustralian diver Matthew Mitcham won the gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics after years of battling depression leading up to the games. He was only 20 when he came out during an interview with a Sydney newspaper. As one of the few male athletes out of the closet, he refers to himself as a "bromosexual."
Lisa RaymondAmerican tennis player Lisa Raymond has not won an Olympic medal -- despite a 20-year career that has seen her earn almost $10 million and reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. She'll be competing in the tennis doubles event at the London Olympics.
Seimone AugustusSeimone Augustus, right, played basketball at Louisiana State University before becoming a WNBA all-star three times. She led her team, the Minnesota Lynx, to the league championship last year. When she was just a freshman in high school, Augustus was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the caption, "Is she the next Michael Jordan?"
Jessica Harrison and Carole PéonCarole Peon, left, is pictured here with her girlfriend Jessica Harrison. Both athletes will represent France in the triathlon at the London games.
Rikke Erhardsen SkovRikke Erhardsen Skov plays handball for the Denmark national team. She won a gold with the team in 2004 before taking the Beijing Games off to work on her career as a nurse and spend time with her family.
Carl HesterCarl Hester represents the U.K. in the dressage event, an equestrian competition. Hester learned to ride a horse after living on an island without cars and riding a donkey to travel around. His parents died when he was young, leaving him under the care of his grandparents. Hester's website lists him at 44 years old.
Even though the world is still waiting for an active athlete to come out of the closet in a major American sport such as football or basketball, it -- and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, community -- have been able to support openly gay and lesbian athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The most prominent of them might be Natalie Cook, an Australian beach volleyball player. Cook's duo won the gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, but her tandem lost at the current games to the dominant Americans, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings. Cook is a motivational speaker when she's not on the volleyball court, and she is the first Australian woman to compete in five Olympics in any sport, according to Reuters.
Also openly lesbian, Megan Rapinoe is an important player on the U.S. women's soccer team, which is ranked No. 1 overall in global standings. On Saturday, Rapinoe scored the first goal of the game that saw the Americans eventually beat the Colombians, 3-0.
SB Nation reported Rapinoe also played almost all of the 90 minutes during Team USA's preliminary game against France.
Rapinoe isn't the only prominent lesbian athlete competing for the U.S. Seimone Augustus is one of the best basketballers in the WNBA, leading the Minnesota Lynx to the league title last year while earning recognition as the most valuable player in the championship finals. Rapinoe be a factor at the Olympics, even though she scored just two points and pulled down only four rebounds during the Americans' 81-56 win over the Croatians.
Of course, sexual orientation doesn't really matter in sports. News outlets reporting on the games seldom mention whether the best player in the game is gay or straight. What is changing, though, is the willingness of athletes to open up about their sexuality -- and that could open the floodgates for young, homosexual athletes to consider training to be something that they previously thought was off-limits.