Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski has come out in a newspaper column outlining his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality.
The 34 year old athlete is a former Australian middle and long-distance swimmer best known for his success in freestyle events.
In a column, titled Jumping in the Deep End and published in The Age newspaper, Kowalski wrote that he only accepted his sexuality at the end of 2006 following an anxiety attack at work.
“After what were literally years of torment, denial and very, very dark times, I couldn’t live a lie to myself anymore,” said Kowalski.
“Growing up in sport and subsequently working in it has made the whole acceptance of who I am extremely difficult for many reasons, but most of all for feeling as though there was nobody there to help me through.”
Kowalski said that he believed that things might have been easier for him had there been more well-known, openly-gay athletes in the sports world but, having lived the experience, he understood why so few elite athletes have come out.
“Despite the dark, fearful and lonely times, being able to write this fills me with a sense of freedom, pride and relief. There truly is a genuine sense that everything will be OK.
“I wrestled for a long, long time wondering whether being gay made me a bad person, but I can no longer fight who I am and that, simply put, is just me,” he said.
At the 1996 Olympics, Kowalski was the first swimmer in almost a century to earn medals in the 200, 400 and 1500 metre freestyle events at one Olympic game. In total, he has won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal.