Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup has said that he had no role models he could positively relate to while he was struggling with his sexuality.
The 29-year-old New Zealand speed skater, who is an ambassador for the Gay Games and one of the only out professional athletes in New Zealand, opened up about his experiences coming out in an interview with Clevescene.
He said: “It’s difficult to say at what point [I realised I was gay].
“I realized that I started having feelings for the same sex at the age of 16 and sort of as time went on, I struggled with accepting that.
“The biggest thing was there were no identities for me to relate with, and I felt isolated and alone. As time went by and I matured, had life experiences, I came to accept it more.
“It wasn’t until I was 22 that I actually said to myself that I was gay and accepted it.
“[I didn't have any role models] through the age of 22, and that was the hardest part; there was just no one I could relate to.”
He added: “I was bullied in high school and the insults that were being hurled my way were those typical names.
“I don’t want to say it, but ‘faggot’ and ‘gay’ were what I was being called and that really drove me into isolation.
“Now we have full equality under the law, same-sex couples can get married, full protection in terms of discrimination laws.
“But I still am the only openly gay athlete in my country. I don’t know what that means, but I do know there are others out there, and there’s work to do in the world of sports and letting athletes know they can be themselves and still be competitive in sports.”