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Olympic swimmer Markus Thormeyer comes out as gay in heartfelt essay about being true to yourself

Josh Milton February 20, 2020
Markus Thormeyer (C) of Canada poses with his gold medal. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Markus Thormeyer (C) of Canada poses with his gold medal. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Gold medal Olympic swimmer Markus Thormeyer, who competed in the Rio de Janeiro games in 2016, has come out as gay.

Thormeyer, 22, recalled in an essay in OutSports about how he hid his sexuality from his teammates. Locker-rooms and poolsides became places where he had to suppress who he was.

The Canadian athlete reflected on how his fear of rejection from the “tight-knit family” haunted him. Nervous that coming out would cause waves in his friendships and even hostility.

Or worse, lose a shot at competing in the Olympic games.

Markus Thormeyer: I felt guilty for not telling my teammates. 

“Creating these intimate bonds with my teammates was amazing, but it also made me feel guilty at the same time.” he wrote.

“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.

“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.

Markus Thormeyer. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

“I didn’t want to take that chance, so I kept my walls up and generally avoided talks about sexuality and dating.”

As the Olympic qualifiers hurtled towards him, the stress of keeping his sexuality a secret strained him as he began to show up to training late or dip from social gatherings early.

“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.”

Olympic swimmer could either come out or burn out. 

As the pressure piled, Thormeyer broke down on his bedroom floor. He faced a cross-roads of either coming out or burning out.

“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.”

Markus Thormeyer of Canada is seen on the podium after winning bronze in the Swimming final of the Men’s 100m Backstroke final on day two of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

After stating his truth, his life no longer felt like battling against the current. Thormeyer’s training improved as “it felt like a literal weight was lifted off my shoulders,” he said.

“I came to the pool with my head up and smile on my face. There were no distractions.

“I could go to workout and only focus on training instead of worrying about keeping up an exhausting act that wasn’t me.”

Markus Thormeyer performed at his peak after coming out as gay. 

Markus Thormeyer of Canada celebrates after winning the Men's 100 LC Meter Backstroke final during day three of the 2019 Toyota U.S. Open Championships. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Markus Thormeyer of Canada celebrates after winning the Men’s 100 LC Meter Backstroke final during day three of the 2019 Toyota U.S. Open Championships. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Since coming out, Thormeyer has gone on to win the gold in the 200-meter backstroke and bronze in the 100-meter backstroke in the FINA Champions Swim Series 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.”

More: coming out, Gay, olympics

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