Canadian Olympic swimmer, Markus Thormeyer said he performed at his best once he’d come out as gay to his team mates in an essay published by Outsports.
Thormeyer who competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio said when he finished high school in 2015 he wanted to pursue his dream of competing in the games but was held back by keeping his sexuality a secret.
“Creating these intimate bonds with my teammates was amazing, but it also made me feel guilty at the same time. They were exposing their most raw essence in the pool every day, but I would come to the pool emotionally guarded and not do the same,” Thormeyer said.
“Following every interaction with my teammates, I would feel a bit sad because they weren’t getting to know the real me, just some surface-level shell I fabricated,” Thormeyer said in his essay.
As the Olympic qualifiers drew ever closer, Thormeyer said the stress of keeping his sexuality a secret caused him to withdraw from social gatherings and to turn up late to training.
“Some days it would even spiral and I would question why I was swimming and be scared of my own goals,” he added.
“Having to deal with that was awful. Every day felt like a threat and not an opportunity,” Thormeyer said.
With pressure building, Thormeyer broke down on his bedroom floor and realised he either had to come out or burn out.
“I I’m not a dramatic person, so I didn’t want to make a big scene when I was coming out, I just wanted it to happen organically in normal conversation,” he said.
“One day, we were all hanging out and the topic of relationships came up in conversation. This was my moment.
“I casually said that I had never been on a date with a guy before and I was kind of scared of it. That I’d probably be a nervous wreck and ruin it.
“Then, without a sliver of judgment or skipping a beat, my friends told me that I’d probably be fine on a date as long as I just had a good time and just was comfortable being myself.”
Since coming out, however, Thormeyer has won gold in the 200 metre backstroke and bronze in the 100 metre backstroke at the FINA Champions Swim Series held in China.
As much as the athlete’s success has been one of polished medals and glittering trophies, his decision to go public with his sexuality is less about him and more to do with encouraging fellow sporting stars to come out as well.
“I want to share my story and be able to spread the message that it’s OK to be gay. Life is much better when you fully embrace you for who you are,” Thormeyer said.