"Hiding my sexuality became a huge distraction to my training..."
Canadian Olympian Markus Thormeyer wrote an inspiring essay to Outsports in which he documents his struggle with training and bonding with team members while still in the closet and what it took for him to finally come out.
"Creating these intimate bonds with my teammates was amazing, but it also made me feel guilty at the same time," he writes "They were exposing their most raw essence in the pool every day, but I would come to the pool emotionally guarded and not do the same."
The 22-year-old athlete says he trained alongside 11 other swimmers, all with the same goal; "competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics."
But that dream was made more difficult for Thormeyer he writes because he couldn't be completely honest with his fellow sportsman.
"Hiding my sexuality became a huge distraction to my training and was starting to affect the relationships with my teammates too. Some days I dreaded going to the pool in fear that my sexuality would be exposed. I’d show up late and leave early to social gatherings and workouts. Some days it would even spiral and I would question why I was swimming and be scared of my own goals."
He writes that the whole experience was awful and his secret kept him from doing social events with his team. "Some days it would even spiral and I would question why I was swimming and be scared of my own goals," he writes.
All of this secrecy was affecting his mental health and the pressure of trying to qualify for the Olympics was compounding the stress.
Eventually being closeted became too much for Thormeyer and he gathered the courage to come out one day in a casual conversation with his teammates. He says they didn't judge him or make a big deal over it, they just accepted him.
"Knowing that I had such amazing teammates supporting me so strongly regardless of my sexual orientation was one of the best feelings in the world."
In the end, his decision was the right one he feels. He won a medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and made finals at the FINA World Swimming Championships in 2019.
"I’ve also decided to join Team Canada’s OneTeam, which promotes LGBT+ inclusion in sport, because I want to share my story and be able to spread the message that it’s OK to be gay. Life is much better when you fully embrace you for who you are."
You can read the entire essay HERE.