Coming Out

Former Olympic swimmer Sean Gunn comes out

Over the past several years, the Olympics has slowly but steadily been growing more queer. Now just in time for the summer games, another former Olympian has come out: Zimbabwean swimmer Sean Gunn.

Gunn competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio after coming to the US to train at the University of Kentucky. It was during college that he began the process of coming out.

“Initially I was not out at all,” Gunn told OutSports. “I dated girls for the first few years. I had some really great relationships with girls over the years and really loved them. 

“Obviously over time that changed and I started dating guys later on. But my team, and everyone who did know, was very supportive and happy for me.”

Despite the support he eventually received, Gunn described coming to terms with his sexuality was not easy, and it was years before he was out to his family. “Unfortunately I only came out to my family and people back at home much later in life,” he said. “Although I haven’t had one bad experience since coming out, I guess I just struggled with it for way too long.

“In saying that, I left home when I was 18 years old to go live, train and study in the USA. I had quite a long-term relationship with a girl, but after that ended I dated a guy in the U.S., which all my friends and team knew about.”

With the support of his team, Gunn set the national record for the 100-meter freestyle at the Rio Olympics. While that record has since been broken, the record he set for the 200-meter freestyle while in college still holds.

Record or no, Gunn saw making it to the Olympics as a win. “I had dreamed of going to the Olympics since I was a little kid, and the whole time I was there I had to keep reminding myself that this is real life,” he said.

“Knowing how much it took for me to get there has been a solid reminder to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to and set me up well for life after the Olympics and after a swimming career.”

Gunn retired from swimming the year following the Olympics. He now lives with his boyfriend in Cape Town, South Africa. “As someone who did struggle with coming out and only did come out at 27 to my family, it makes me so happy to be surrounded by friends and family and so much love, and am really grateful for them all,” he said.

Although his swimming career is behind him, Gunn has no complaints. “My life really is in such a good space right now, and I have so much to be grateful for!” he said. “I’m getting older, but I’ve never felt younger, fitter and happier, which means the world to me!”

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