Irish Olympic hopeful reveals some competitors won't shake his hand after coming out as bisexual

Speaking to Extra.ie, bisexual Olympic hopeful Jack Woolley speaks about rejecting labels and opponents refusing to shake his hand because of his sexuality.

Irish Olympic hopeful, Jack Woolley, doing Taekwondo in a still of RTE documentary Road to Rio

Bisexual Olympic hopeful Jack Woolley has revealed that some opponents won’t shake his hand due to his sexuality and the reason why he rejects labels, preferring to be seen as ‘the lad from Tallaght’. 

In 2019, Woolley became the first Irish person to qualify for the Olympics in Taekwondo. On Instagram, he wrote, “Today I have made history in becoming the first ever Irish Taekwondo Athlete to qualify for an Olympic Games! Blood, sweat, tears, highs, lows, and many sacrifices have lead to this moment and I am extremely grateful and proud!”

View this post on Instagram

TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC GAMES QUALIFIED 🇮🇪✅. . Today I have made history in becoming the first ever Irish Taekwondo Athlete to qualify for an Olympic Games! Blood, sweat, tears, highs, lows and many sacrifices have lead to this moment and I am extremely grateful and proud. . (If I mention everyone this would be an even longer post than it already is) I’d like to thank my friends, family and team mates for their constant love and support since I first started my taekwondo career! To @sportireland , @team_ireland_olympic and @irishtaekwondounion for their great service to me and Taekwondo as a whole in Ireland. . . But most importantly I’d like to thank my coach @robert.d.taaffe , who has not only travelled the world with me to get those ranking points but has made extreme sacrifices in his day to day life in order to get us both on that plane to Tokyo! As every player and coach in sport does, we have had really good times and some not so good ones, but we pushed through, worked as a team and have turned our Olympic dream into a reality! . . Now it’s time to rest and enjoy Christmas with my friends and family. 2020 will be time to work even harder so I’m not just the first Irish athlete to qualify for Ireland but to be the country’s first Taekwondo medalist! 💪🏽🥇. . #wt #worldtaekwondo #ireland #olympics #qualification #tokyo #2020 #proud #irl #mma #wtf

A post shared by Jack Woolley 🦂 (@jack_woolley_tkd) on

In a recent interview, Woolley revealed that many of his opponents refuse to shake his hand because of his sexuality. Speaking to Extra.ie, he said, “It is tough, my sport. A lot of the top athletes would be Muslim, so you can’t be too open about it. I have had some opponents who wouldn’t shake my hand and I’m just thinking ‘you need to cop on’.”

Woolley further stated, “Most people don’t care, though, and they shouldn’t care. It’s only if you have a problem with me, I will have a problem with you. Maybe it can be good, maybe I can be an inspiration to some young people. And if someone wants to talk to me about what they are going through, they can but I’m not throwing it in your face.”

The Tallaght athlete revealed he was bisexual during RTÉ’s Road to Rio documentary in 2016. He was 17 years old at the time, going through 5th year of secondary school. Coming out as part of the film proved to be a source of anxiety, as his grandparents did not yet know about his sexuality.

Four years later, Woolley is now celebrating being the first Irish athlete to qualify for Taekwondo in the Olympics. However, he still has a lot of regrets around how he came out. He told Extra.ie, “I just wish I never labelled it. I still don’t like labelling it. People are just hell-bent on giving everyone labels nowadays.”

Woolley continued, ‘I’m not the Welsh rugby player (Gareth Thomas) or (diver) Tom Daley, they are big names and people talk about them but if you notice, I didn’t even know his name, he was just the rugby player. I don’t want to be that. I want to be the first Irish Olympian in my sport, the lad from Tallaght who went to the Olympics, not Jack the gay athlete.”

In 2019, the young Olympic hopeful won gold in the Turkish Open and then went on to get a silver in the US equivalent.

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