Olympian Brian Boitano says had he not been selected to travel to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, he would not have come out gay.

Boitano, the 1988 Olympic figure skating champion, announced he's gay two days after he was tapped by President Barack Obama to join a 10-person delegation to represent the U.S. at the Sochi Games. The inclusion of two openly gay athletes – tennis legend Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow – made headlines for what appeared to be a symbolic message from the White House to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in June signed a controversial law banning the promotion of “gay propaganda.”

“I don't feel that I can represent the country without revealing this incredible side of myself,” Boitano told the AP on Thursday. “This is an important moment, and to represent my country in Russia, it's a platform that is so important for me.”

“The president is kind of saying to Russia that as a strong country, we believe in this and if you don't follow along, we will leave you behind in this thought process,” Boitano added.

(Related: Billie Jean King: Obama is saying gays belong in U.S. with Sochi delegation.)