Gay rugby and bobsled star Simon Dunn dies suddenly aged 35

Simon, a white man with a moustache, smiling while stood on a balcony in front of a nighttime skyline

Simon Dunn, Australia’s first openly gay bobsledder, and rugby player, has died suddenly at the age of just 35. 

Dunn’s body was found in his Sydney apartment on Saturday (21 January) by police, who have said his death is not being treated as suspicious.

NSW Police said in a statement: “At about 10am on Saturday, January 21, 2023, police were called to a unit on Crown Street, Surry Hills, after reports the body of a man had been found inside. 

“Officers from Surry Hills Police Area Command have commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding his death, which is not being treated as suspicious.”

Simon Dunn was the first gay athlete to represent Australia in bobsled. After retiring from the sport in 2016, he took up rugby, and played for all-gay team the Sydney Convicts.

He made a return to bobsled in 2021 in an attempt to qualify for the Winter Olympics in 2022, but was forced to withdraw due to injury. 

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The athlete was shortlisted for the Australian LGBTI Awards Sports Personality of the Year in 2018 and 2019. 

“Simon was passionate about giving back to the community and volunteering, he gave his time, and utilising his profile, to help multiple charities,” Dunn’s team at Ruby Rose Management said in a statement.

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“Simon never said no to donating his time to any organisation who wanted to grow its diversity and inclusion footprint, from Woolworths to Lion – helping them all to better understand their LGBTQIA+ employees and customers.

“Simon represented us all, he always said ‘I am not the spokesman, I am just a gay white male telling you about my experiences, and experiences from those with whom I listened and learnt’.

“He has left his loving and supporting mother, sister, nephews and niece.”

‘We are devastated’

The Sydney Convicts paid tribute to the player, saying “Once a Convict, always a Convict” in a tribute on its website.

“His talents extended well off the rugby field too, and we know Simon made a positive impact through is work in the community, often speaking publicly about the challenges faced by LGBTIQA+ people in sport,” the team’s statement said.

“We are devastated by the loss of Simon to our club and community, and share our deepest condolences with Simon’s family, friends and those who Simon brought love to over the years.”

Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe led tributes to Simon Dunn on Twitter, saying the bobsledder had “inspired and changed people’s time on earth for the better”.

“We spent the early and first hours of 2023 together drinking wine, sharing stories and laughter on your couch with your friends and discussing our ambitions and plans for the year ahead… it cuts so deeply to know that you had so much more to give to this world and to those around you,” he added.

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“You will be deeply missed and there is a hole today in many hearts that will take a long time to begin to heal.”

TV personality Benjamin Norris added: “I met Simon Dunn a couple of times at queer events over the years. He was always really sweet and thoughtful.

“I am saddened to hear the news of his passing, and I am reminded of the fragility of the LGBTI community.”

Fans left comments on the athlete’s last Instagram post before his death, with one fan writing: “Deepest condolences to all the countless lives you touched and positively impacted during your far too brief time on earth.”

American bobsledder Chris Kinney, who came out as bisexual in 2020, said: “You were so supportive when I was struggling with coming out in our sport. Will miss you Simon.”

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