Track & Field

Britain’s first openly gay athlete: “I don’t want this to define me”

Race walker Tom Bosworth has become the first British athlete to come out as gay.

The 25-year-old, who finished 12th in the 20km race walk at the European Championships in Zurich last year, revealed to BBC Sport how difficult the decision was.

“Even in 2015, it’s difficult for people to speak with friends and families about a lot of things in sport, and I don’t think being gay is still considered a normal thing,” he says. “It’s very normal to be open and to have a gay colleague in many other areas, but in sport it’s not. In athletics, you’re out there on your own, so [people will use] any sort of weakness against you, and athletes don’t want to be attacked for it.”

Bosworth said all those close to him have known about his sexual orientation for many years, but that he was concerned about making it public due to the occasionally negative comments he got from some teammates.

2011 IAAF World Outdoor Championships

Supportive stance: Mo Farah was one teammate who supported Bosworth’s decision. Image: PhotoRun

“It’s been 99pc positive. Some people were shocked and some weren’t, but I wouldn’t be sat here today without the support. Some were quite intrigued, they’d never met another sportsman who was open. They realise you’re a completely normal person, just like anyone else. Mo [Farah] asked some funny questions but he was really supportive; he didn’t bat an eyelid.

“I’ve had some negativity from a few athletes in the past and it crops up, occasionally, because not everybody sees the world through my eyes. I got called some really nasty names, fag, queer, any of these, there’s plenty more, and that’s how they’d direct the conversation to me, but not many people found them funny. Most people are really, really supportive.”

Bosworth hopes his decision will encourage other sportspeople to be open about their sexuality, and believes that in years to come, such information won’t be newsworthy any more.

“I’m trying to give a message that you can succeed in sport from any background, sexuality,” he said. “Anybody can contact me on social media, so I expect loads of positivity and I’m sure there’ll be a bit of negativity. I don’t want this to define me. I want to go and win medals, but this is me, so I feel I need to help and support other people.”

One of the first in line to congratulate Bosworth on his announcement was Ireland’s Rob Heffernan.

To watch the interview, click here.

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Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy

Cathal Dennehy is a freelance journalist, a once-serious, now-retired athlete who writes for a number of international publications in the running industry. He has won two sports-writing awards, the Peter Ball Memorial Award in Ireland and the Wills Writing Award in the UK. Nationally, he previously worked for the Sunday Tribune, Irish Runner magazine and has written for the Sunday Independent, Irish Independent, the Guardian and The Independent in Britain. He is a regular contributor to Running Times, Runner's World, RunBlogRun and the IAAF website.
His banter levels are often poor, occasionally exceptional.

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