Lesbian swimmer is first Italian Olympian to come out, with inspirational message of acceptance

An Italian open water swimming star has become the first Italian Olympic athlete at the Rio 2016 games to publicly come out as gay with an inspirational message about acceptance.

A record number of out LGBT Olympians took to Rio this year to participate in the games, but none were from Team Italy.

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Rachele Bruni, who won silver in the 10km swim on Monday, made history by dedicating the medal to her girlfriend Diletta Faina, as well as her family and coach.

LGBT rights advocates in Italy said the moment was historic as she is believed to be the first Italian athlete at the 2016 games to come out as gay.

She told La Repubblica: “I’ve always lived my sexuality naturally, without any anxiety.

“There was never any need for me to come out. My friends, my relatives, my swimming teammates, everyone knew. There was no need to put up posters.”

The 25-year-old also said that she had not planned to come out publicly and that it just happened.

The head of Arcigay, the biggest gay rights group in Italy, Piazzoni, said the coming out message had “incredible force”.

“In sporting and media terms it is very, very important,” he said. “We are beginning to see the fruits of years of battle…”

“It is not credible that there are no gay Italian footballers. The next objective has to be to break down the wall of fear in football, which millions of kids play in what should be an inclusive environment.”

Tom Bosworth – a race walker for Team GB – tweeted a photo of himself proposing to his boyfriend on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro earlier this week.

Bosworth and his boyfriend were the second gay couple to engaged at this year’s games, after a rugby sevens player was proposed to by her girlfriend.

At the weekend, a Brazilian judo champion came out publicly as gay in an interview during the Rio Olympics.