Team GB swimmer Mark Foster comes out as gay

A former Olympic swimmer has confirmed he is gay.

Mark Foster, now 47, is a former world champion swimmer who represented the UK at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

In an interview with the Guardian, Foster publicly acknowledged that he is gay.

The former athlete, who has appeared on Strictly Come Dancing and is a regular pundit on swimming shows, admitted he had kept his sexuality private previously.

He said: “I tiptoed around the issue for so long.

“I got really good at the dance of telling half-truths. I’ve supported the Terence Higgins Trust, Stonewall, Ben Cohen’s Stand Up to Bullying campaign.

“But I’ve always done it under the radar. At the Sochi Olympics [in 2014] I did a piece for Huffington Post. I was shocked by the treatment of gay people in Russia and needed to say something – without revealing anything about myself.

“So I half-said something. It’s always been half-truths in public.”

Mark Foster of Great Britain (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Of the decision to come out, he said: “I’ve just swerved and swerved. Telling half-truths and not being my true self is only hurting me.

“I’m 47, a middle-aged man, and I’m no longer competing. And I’m not the first gay sportsman to come out. Gareth Thomas and Tom Daley led the way.”

The former sportsman added that he “started seeing a therapist at the beginning of the year”, adding: “I then lost my dad in June. He knew I was gay but we never talked much.

“We had so many things we never shared. I now want to share my feelings.”

He said: “I’ve lived an openly gay life to my friends and family. But I always hid it as a swimmer.”

“When I was younger, I thought my feelings were just a phase. I had girlfriends. I never had a boyfriend.

“But I had sexual experiences with boys. At swimming competitions I would go with women to divert attention from the real me.

“It’s not like I didn’t enjoy the act – I just preferred boys. But I accepted I was gay when I fell in love with my first partner.”

The sportsman added: “I was worried about how coming out might affect my work. My swim schools cater for children and there’s this insidious perception that gay equals paedophile/child molester.

“So I understand what’s stopping gay footballers coming out. I’ve been to many football matches and seen that aggressive mob mentality.

“Because of dressing room ‘banter’ they don’t want to show their real selves.

“Football is a weird testosterone-driven world and it’s the last bastion. But if a gay footballer came out it would change so many attitudes.”

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

He added: “I always get asked: ‘Are you married? How many kids?’ They just presume because most people’s perception of gay men is what they see on TV – camp chat-show hosts.

“They can’t put me in that box. I’m conditioned not to share so I’ll usually say: ‘I’ve got no kids but I’ve got a partner.’ If they ask ‘What does she do?’, I will either correct them or just say: ‘They’re a civil servant’ or ‘They’re an antiques dealer’.

“I’m very clever at dancing around stuff. But it’s tiring and sometimes I have been honest and said: ‘No, I don’t have kids. I’m gay.’ And a guy will surprise me and say: ‘Oh, but you could adopt kids.’ That’s refreshing.”