It’s a bit of both. I’m very proud of my body. My body is my office. [Laughs] I work very hard to make my body strong and the best it can be. I’m more than happy to show that off. It’s a little bit about exposure. It’s been hard for me to gain exposure so I do what I can. My sport is what I love doing and I want to do it for as long as I can. The reality for me is the money isn’t there and it’s extremely difficult to be a professional athlete with an amateur status. If doing something like that can give me more of a following and open more doors, then I’m happy to do it.
What advice do you have for other professional athletes who are deciding whether to come out publicly?
It starts with being safe. That’s the number one thing. I wasn’t ready when I was 18 or 19. It wasn’t until I was 23 and after my first Olympics that I was comfortable enough with who I was. I knew in my own mind that who I was made no difference to my competitors or who I was in society, but before that I didn’t believe that. I had to bridge that gap myself. You can have someone tell you, but it takes you believing it yourself before you can take those steps. For me being in my sport was the most important thing and I was afraid that being gay would jeopardize that which was untrue. But I can understand how someone on a team sport can be concerned about that because you have a lot of factors that are in place, such as your teammates and the people in the higher echelon who run the sport. You just don’t know what the reception will be when you come out. I think what’s great at the moment is that you see people at the top of sports administration saying, “Hey, if you are gay, we want you to come out. We don’t want you to carry around that burden.” It is a burden and it definitely stopped me from being the best athlete I could be.
Do you see other athletes struggling with their sexual orientation?
It is common. I can only do my best to reassure people who I speak to that it’s going to be fine. If there is a problem it will be sorted out. It’s 2013. The large chunk of society is on the right side here. They need to know that if anything goes wrong, it will be sorted out and they’ll be supported no matter what. It might not be from those people who you think, but there will definitely be people out there who will support you.
What are your plans after the Olympics?
I have a few plans that are mine and mine alone at the moment. We’ll see what happens at Sochi It’s been a tough four years post-Vancouver. I still love my sport and I’m not too sure what’s next but we’ll wait and see.
With your travels and the intense amount of training necessary right now, how difficult is it to maintain a personal relationship?
It’s very difficult. I guess it’s a lone game for someone like me who’s an individual athlete. It can get pretty lonely. I just keep my eyes focused on the prize and the end goal. You have to make sacrifices and you have to be dedicated. Sometimes being in a relationship isn’t the best thing because it takes a lot of work. There are rewards. People do support you in the right way but you have to make sure you have the right people around you to build you up and help you get what you need to get where you’re going.
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Photo credit: James Demitri