Gareth Thomas left in floods of tears after emotional surprise from his parents

Gareth Thomas

Gay former rugby player Gareth Thomas was left in floods of tears after he was surprised by his parents presenting him with an award.

Thomas received an accolade for being a sporting inspiration and for breaking down stereotypes and stigma around HIV at the Mirror Pride of Sports Awards on Thursday (December 5).

The Welsh former rugby star came out as gay in 2009, and in September this year revealed that he is HIV-positive. 

He seemed already close to tears as he came up on stage, which prompted awards host Ben Shephard to ask: “This is quite emotional, isn’t it?”

Thomas said: “You know, it really is. Because I’m being celebrated for something that six months ago was something that [made me want] to die because I felt that nobody would accept me.

“So to be celebrated is a difficult thing to try and take. But what I’ve realised… is that the story transcended HIV.

“We’re all people and we all have weaknesses and we all have vulnerabilities and people want to prey on them. But what I realise, as athletes the one thing we know is how to fight and how to come out.

“Having a vulnerability and having a weakness doesn’t make me weak and there was a point where I thought it made me weak.”

Thomas had been sent a video message for the awards by Sir Elton John, who described him as “a beacon of hope for so many people” and “the absolute best”, but the most important surprise was yet to come.

When Shepherd announced that Thomas’s parents were there to present his award, the rugby star was speechless.

As his parents came out on stage, he broke down with his head in his hands before embracing both of them. Thomas said he thought his parents had been looking after his dog at home.

His mum joked that he had been a “pain” as a child, as he’d wanted to try so many different sports. His dad added that the “dark times” had been hard, but that his son was “an inspiration now”.


Gareth Thomas said those around him had applauded his honesty for coming out as HIV-positive

Thomas said that the positivity he’d received from people around him after revealing his HIV-positive status was not something he was expecting.

He continued: “They applauded me. And what they applauded was honesty. We know that if you’re an honest sportsman, you’re a good sportsman. But more importantly, if you’re an honest human being, you’re a better human being.”

Olympic and former world champion swimmer Mark Foster, who came out as gay in November 2017, told Thomas: “I wish I had a role model and someone to look up to like you when I was younger. Not only are you an inspiration on the pitch, you’re an inspiration off it.”