Eight sporting heroes who made history by coming out

As athlete Tom Bosworth opens up about being gay, PinkNews looks at other LGBT sporting stars who made the brave move to come out.

Athlete Tom Bosworth explained earlier today (October 13) why he has decided to be the first Team GB athlete to come out as gay.

In an in-depth interview, the race walker said that he felt that now was the right time to come out, as he prepares for next year’s Rio Olympics.

He said he hopes his announcement will help more athletes feel comfortable enough to discuss being LGBT.

However, he also pointed out that the sports profession is still “lagging behind” when it comes to supporting the LGBT community.

“Unfortunately, speaking out about this as a sportsperson is still news,” he said.

“I just hope that the more sportsmen and sportswomen who come out, the more sport will catch up with the real world.

“Hopefully in two or three years’ time, coming out won’t be a news story.”

With this in mind, PinkNews takes a look at some of the brave sports men and women who have spoken publicly being LGBT.

Tom Daley

Daley – who won bronze in the men’s 10 metre platform competition at the London 2012 Olympics – revealed in December 2013 that he was in a relationship with another man.

The 19-year-old made the announcement in a self-made YouTube clip, saying: “Come spring this year my life changed massively when I met someone and they made me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great – and that someone is a guy.

He continued: “In an ideal world I wouldn’t be doing this video, because it shouldn’t matter.”

The diver recently announced his engagement to Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Keegan Hirst

Keegan Hirst – prop and captain for Batley Bulldogs rugby team – came out publicly in August.

He is the first British player to come out as gay while playing the sport, although he is second openly gay Rugby League star in the UK.

“At first I couldn’t even say ‘I’m gay’ in my head, let alone out loud. Now I feel like I’m letting out a long breath that I’ve held in for a long time,” he said at the time.

The player added: “I tick every macho box. How could I be gay? I’m from Batley for goodness sake. No one is gay in Batley.”

As he took to the pitch for the first time since coming out, he became the first British Rugby League player to do so as an out gay man – with an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the crowd and fellow players alike.

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Casey Stoney

England women’s football captain said she decided to speak publicly about being gay after the positive reaction Daley saying that he was in a relationship with a man.

Stoney – who has 116 caps for England – is now the most high-profile active gay footballer in England.

Stoney later welcomed twins Teddy and Tilly via IVF with her partner Megan Harris late last year, and the family appeared together publicly for the first time last month.

Explaining their decision to appear as a family, Stoney said: “I think it’s really important. I think families are very different now – single parents, same-sex couples. For me it’s all about the environment you create.”

Jason Collins

Retired American basketball star and LGBT activist Jason Collins confirmed he was gay in 2013.

At the time Collins wrote: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

More recently, Collins has focussed on LGBT activism in addition to his sports career, spearheading the United Nations ‘Free & Equal’ video campaign, and commemorating murdered gay teenager Matthew Shepard during a match.

Michael Sam

Sam became the first openly gay player in NFL history when he came out as gay last year – and has since had brief spells with the NFL’s St Louis Rams, the Dallas Cowboys, and Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes.

However, he crashed out of the sport last month citing mental health issues, and has since re-enrolled in school.

Sadly, he went on to admit his career might have gone better if he had stayed in the closet.

“I’m not going to say [if it impacted my career]. But it probably would have been better for me if I didn’t come out. I would be on a roster.

“But, as I said, I have no regrets whatsoever.”

Click next to see more.

Caitlyn Jenner

In April, former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer for a televised interview – announcing to nearly 17 million viewers that she was transitioning.

One month later, Jenner introduced herself to the world with her historic Vanity Fair cover.

“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life.’”

Last month, a court approved Jenner’s legal name and gender change.

Robbie Rogers 

The LA Galaxy footballer came out in a blog post in 2013.

“I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career,” he wrote.

“I will never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.”

The sportsman has since branded it “insane” that countries like Qatar and Russia, which have very poor records on LGBT rights, are allowed to host the World Cup.

Ian Thorpe

The five-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer, 31, revealed last year in an interview with Michael Parkinson that he is gay.

Thorpe had previously vehemently denied rumours about his sexuality, saying that he struggled to tell the truth after “the lie became too big.”

“I’ve wanted to [come out] for some time. I didn’t feel I could. Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” he said.

“I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.”