Sunday, February 7, 2010
Johnny Weissmuller, Ian Thorpe, Matt Biondi, Michael Phelpes, & of course Mark Spitz... I am zany for Olympic swimmers! Olympic medalist Mark Tewksbury was closeted throughout his competitive swimming career, but since coming out has become an advocate for glbtq rights .Going into Barcelona, Tewksbury was ranked 4th in the world & most experts picked one of the powerful American swimmers to win gold. Tewksbury's gold medal was Canada's first at the Barcelona games and the first Canadian gold in swimming since the Communist-boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Tewksbury also won a bronze medal in the relay event in Barcelona. He made the cover of Time magazine. He was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, & the International Swimming Hall of Fame & was named Canada’s Male Athlete of the Year.
In December 1998, Tewksbury announced that he was gay. He was the first Canadian athlete to voluntarily state his homosexuality & his announcement drew great public attention. In 1998, he lost a 6-figure contract as a motivational speaker because he was "too openly gay."
Like many gay athletes, Tewksbury competed for years while in the closet. "The only gay swimmer I knew of was Greg Louganis," he said of those days. "& he was spoken of terribly behind the scenes because of his sexuality. So in that regard, it pushed me further back into the closet."
He lives on Canada with his husband- Benjamin Kiss, a Swiss figure skater. Check out his autobiography- Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock.