After competing for the third year in a row, Timo Cavelius became the first openly gay fighter to win the German National Judo Championships on January 31.
Last weekend, Cavelius became the national champion in the Japanese martial art discipline when he won the tournament in Stuttgart. He fought against former champion Tim Gramkow, gaining international attention after his win.
Now, he is determined to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. If that were to happen, he would become the first openly gay male Olympian in judo, adding another name to the increasing number of LGBTQ+ athletes participating in the prestigious competition.
While Cavelius has been out to family and friends since he was 15, his public coming out in judo came later, in 2020. Talking about his experience to German newspaper Bento, he said: “In sport, the topic was taboo for me for a long time, not only because I had repeatedly read horror stories in the media about athletes coming out. In my team, we were all pubescent boys who still wanted to prove their masculinity.”
“Judo is also a very physical sport; after all, you throw each other around and you’re incredibly close in ground fighting. I was afraid that the others would no longer take me seriously,” he explained.
“I had a kind of pivotal experience when I spoke to our sports psychologist about my sexuality for the first time,” Cavelius said, speaking to OutSports. “She didn’t try to push me in any direction, but made it clear that the choice was entirely mine. And it was true: I could decide for myself how to deal with this matter. The fear of coming out came from me, I had overcome it with friends and family.”
“My ‘public’ coming out with my teammates was more or less a knee-jerk reaction: I simply made a Facebook post in which I cleared up the rumors. ‘Yes, I’m gay, but that doesn’t change who I am’,” he explained.
“Of course, I was scared of how my teammates would react. But apart from the classic ‘How are you doing?’ questions, they were all really cool with it,” he concluded.
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