Daniel Kowalski, 34, an Australian swimmer and Olympic contender, who shared a gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and won a silver, and two bronzes in the 1996 Summer Olympics came out of the closet last week. Australian newspaper, “The Age” interviewed the athlete.
Kowalski said, like many people that ultimately come out, he could no longer “live a lie.”
“Growing up in sport and subsequently working in it has made the whole acceptance of who I am extremely difficult for many reasons,” he said.
He considers Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas as inspiration for his coming out. The most recent installation of the Olympics, in Vancouver, made strides for gay athletes by including a pride house where other out athletes could congregate comfortably. However, there was little gay buzz in and around the Olympic Village.
“My opinion is it’s difficult to come out in any sport. Swimming is almost an exception, as it is an individual sport,” said Jim Harper of Miami’s gay Nadadores swim team. He indicated that Bruce Hayes and Greg Louganis are both Olympic medalists who are out of the closet.
Ireen Wüst, who competed in Vancouver, was quite irritated that her sexuality was on center stage as opposed to her athletic talents. Coming out of the closet is difficult for athletes who are largely seen as celebrities by sports fans who are stereotypically straight.
Gay Olympic veteran Ryan Quinn has stated that gay athletes have nothing to gain by coming out, “I often think that if I had people to look up to, to read about, who were elite athletes and were easily accessible—people who had lived some of my experiences as an athlete—then it would have helped the situation. It would have made it easier. But having lived it, I do understand why so few elite athletes have come out,” said the swimmer.
Conversely, he also said that depression, and suicidal tendencies plagued him while he was in the closet; conditions that are common among closeted gays in hetero-dominated fields.