Tom Bosworth, Britain’s only openly gay athletics star at Tokyo, urges more Olympians to come out… as the race walker insists speaking up will help others and bring global sport into the 21st century
The only openly gay member of Britain’s athletics team in Tokyo says sport is still ‘not in the 21st century’ and has encouraged more Olympians to come out.
Race walker Tom Bosworth publicly disclosed his sexuality in the run-up to Rio 2016, where he finished sixth and then memorably proposed to his partner Harry on the Copacabana beach.
But Bosworth remains one of only three Team GB men across all sports who are publicly out – diver Tom Daley and eventer Carl Hester being the others – and he wishes more athletes felt comfortable to follow suit.
Race walker Tom Bosworth is one of the few openly gay athletes at the Tokyo Olympics
Tom Daley (left) and Carl Hester (right) are the other two openly gay male Team GB athletes
‘I didn’t expect it to change my life as much as it did because I had already spoken to my family and my club,’ says the 31-year-old about coming out on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2015.
‘But it opened my eyes to the world of sport that is not in the 21st century at all.
‘I can’t believe that I had such an impact as I did. It shows just us how few people have done what I did. In countries where a lot of sport is played and publicised, it makes no sense.
‘I am aware of more athletes who now are living quite openly but there are still very few at the highest level representing their country.
‘It still feels, not a taboo subject, but just hushed away from. When you have 11,000 athletes at the Olympics and 150 out gay sports men and women, it just doesn’t add up.’
The 31-year-old disclosed his sexuality in the run-up to Rio 2016, where he finished sixth
Bosworth, who has postponed his wedding to Harry until next year, says some track and field athletes find it easy to keep quiet because they are not as high profile as other sports stars.
Yet the Commonwealth Games silver medallist believes if more gay men spoke out it would help others – while also boosting an individual’s sporting performance.
‘In athletics, we’re not household names and we don’t get as much publicity, so it is quite easy to go under the radar,’ Bosworth tells Sportsmail.
‘But the more people that do come out and just live openly, it would make it so much easier for the more mainstream sports people, or everyday people who enjoy sport but are worried about being outed in their club team.
Bosworth says that the world of sport is still not in the 21st century when it comes to sexuality
‘I always say nowadays it’s all about being visible. If you are fortunate enough to be in a relationship with a supportive family, in a country or place where living openly is pretty safe, I really would recommend it because it will only benefit you and your mental health. You’ll probably perform better as well because you’re not worried about it.’
This week, Luke Prokop became the first active NHL player to come out as gay, while in June, Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to do so. But there are still no openly gay footballers in England’s top four divisions.
‘I think it would need a bit of a snowball effect, in terms of a few start living openly at a similar time, and are supported by their clubs, the FA and hopefully their fans,’ admits Bosworth.
Bosworth believes more athletes speaking out will help others and also improve performance
‘So much prejudice still exists and you get idiots on social media, so for footballers that’s going to be very difficult to manage and it could be a difficult period of time.’
National-record holder Bosworth competes in the 20km race walk on August 5 and believes he is a medal contender. ‘I know I’m capable,’ he adds.
‘But I know there’s probably 10 others that are as well. I thrive in the hot conditions that we’re going to face but the field is so stacked that I could have the best race of my life and finish 8th.’