Gareth Thomas, the former Wales Rugby captain, has spoken of his relief at being able to come out.
The 35-year-old star, who is the most-capped Welsh player, announced he was gay last weekend.
In an interview with ITN, he said coming out was “liberating”.
Thomas said: “Every gay man will tell you that ‘coming out’ is like a weight lifted from your shoulders and being able to walk down the street knowing that there is nothing for me to hide has been a liberating experience.”
Although he had known since the age of 18 that he was gay, Thomas acknowledged that some would disagree with his decision to stay in the closet.
He said: “I knew I was gay at 18, but to come out then would have meant I would not have achieved what I did in rugby. I loved rugby so much and it was so important to me that I made the decision to keep my sexuality secret. People may disagree with that, but it was my belief and my decision.
“Since my announcement I have had an amazing response and have not had one negative comment or any abuse. I think it proves there is a place for gay men in every walk of life.”
Thomas added he hoped his decision would encourage more gay sportsmen to come out.
“What I am trying to do is break the trend in rugby and sport in general and show any aspiring sportsman, regardless of his age, that the mould has been broken,” he said.
“It is not an issue if a straight man plays rugby and I hope my decision will ensure it is not an issue if a gay man plays rugby.”
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Thomas’ ex-wife Jemma said she was “incredibly proud” of him for coming out.
She said: “He is now free to be who he is and I, and everyone else who knows and loves him, am happy for him because he is a very special person.
“I don’t feel angry, embarrassed or humiliated, nor do I regret marrying Gareth for a second. I know with all my heart that he adored me as much as I adored him on our wedding day, and I had the most fantastic years of my life with him.”