Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen has made sports history by becoming the first athlete in Finland to come out publicly as gay while still active in his career.
Liukkonen says that he came out in order to raise awareness about gay rights before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, which start on February 7.
“I wanted to start a broader discussion in connection with Sochi, because it’s sad that the legislation in Russia restricts the human rights of young people and others,” Liukkonen said about his decision.
Liukkonen told Finnish news site YLE.fi that he hopes his coming out will lead to a more open attitude about sexuality in sports and that eventually it will no longer be considered newsworthy for an athlete to come out.
He said, ”Homosexuality is the same kind of characteristic as whether a person has blue or brown eyes, or whether they are left- or right-handed.”
The swimmer explained that he came out to his family gradually over the past two years, and that they were very supportive.
“My family has received the news positively, and everyone has supported me, it’s a really great feeling that I can finally be myself,” he added.
Liukkonon broke the Finnish record for men’s 50 metre freestyle event at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
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