Caitlin Cahow Biography

Athlete, Hockey Player (1985–)
Former U.S. women's hockey team star Caitlin Cahow entered the public eye as a spokesperson for gay athletes leading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.


Born on May 20, 1985, in New Haven, Connecticut, Caitlin Cahow turned to ice hockey after her introduction to figure skating. She joined the U.S. women's hockey team while at Harvard University, winning three world championship gold medals and two Olympic medals. After retiring from hockey, Cahow became a public advocate for gay athletes and was named a U.S. delegate to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Early Years

Caitlin Cahow was born on May 20, 1985, in New Haven, Connecticut, to Barbara and Elton Cahow. A former competitive figure skater who became a professor of surgery at Yale University, Barbara tried to pique her daughter's interest in her old sport. Cahow instead became interested in ice hockey, though she had to play with boys in the only available organized leagues at the time.

After her father died from brain cancer when she was 11, Cahow became a multi-sport star at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. Along with stints on the field hockey and soccer teams, she played for the lacrosse teams that won the 2002 New England and 2003 Founders League championships, as well as the hockey squad that captured the 2002-03 Founders League title.

College, Olympic and Professional Careers

Admitted to Harvard University in 2003, Cahow switched from forward to defenseman as a freshman on the hockey team, and earned the Joe Bertagna Award for most improved player as a sophomore. She was a member of the U.S. women’s hockey team that won a bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics, as well as the one that claimed the gold at the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women's Championship. That year, she also wrapped up an impressive collegiate career by earning All-America honors and winning the USA Hockey Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year Award.

Cahow continued her hockey career after graduating from Harvard with a bachelor's degree in social/biological anthropology, joining the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women's Hockey League for the 2008-09 season. She hauled in more world championship gold medals at the 2009 and 2011 tournaments, and a silver at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

While playing for the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) in 2012, Cahow suffered a pair of concussions that took a tremendous emotional and physical toll. She returned to the ice the following season and helped the Blades become the first American team to win the league championship, but she struggled with the fear of getting hurt again. After failing to make the 2013 women's world championship roster, she retired from hockey.

Caitlin Cahow

(Photo: Sara Melikian (originally posted to Flickr as #8 Caitlin Cahow2) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Olympic and LGBT Ambassador

Freed from the demands of physical competition, Cahow joined the CWHL board of directors and focused on obtaining her law degree from Boston College.

When Russia passed a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" on the eve of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Cahow joined the ensuing civil rights debate by publicly revealing her homosexuality. Rejecting a boycott of the Olympics, she argued that gay athletes had the chance to inspire progress in the same manner that African-American sprinter Jesse Owens did with his dominance at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.

"I'm going to Russia not just to represent one community, I'm going to represent the United States and all that we stand for. I guess my hope is that we go to Russia and I represent my country as best I can and support all our athletes, but that I return to a country that's looking toward a future where these classifications and these categories don't matter as much." 

In December 2013, Cahow accepted the White House's invitation to join the U.S. delegation for the Winter Games, becoming part of a diverse group that also featured highly accomplished gay athletes Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano.

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