Calif. Gymnast, Olympic Hopeful Comes Out
Josh Dixon, a San Jose, Calif., gymnast, publicly came out as gay during his bid to represent the U.S. for the upcoming Summer Olympics, OutSports.com reported.
Dixon, who finished second out of 72 in a qualifying competition in Colorado Springs last week, hopes to be the first out male gymnast in the Olympics.
The athlete is a Stanford University graduate and talked extensively with the website about his family life, career and sexual orientation.
"Gymnastics was my number one priority, and if something got in the way of that I had to push it aside," Dixon, who is half-black and half-Japanese, told the OutSports.com.
During his sophomore year at Stanford, a close friend on the gymnastics team at the University of Illinois came out to him. Dixon told his friend that he was also gay and the two created a strong support system for each other. In his junior year he started to date another Stanford gay athlete.
Dixon said when teammates found out he was dating another man they were very comfortable with it: "Most people responded with 'Oh, that's cool.'"
"This would never affect how I'm judged or my position on the U.S. Olympic team," Dixon said. He added that he did not experience homophobia "in any way, shape or form."
The article also points out that gymnastics is one of the few sports that awards metals based on scores of judges. Some say that figure skater Johnny Weir's perceived sexual orientation worked against him in the 2010 Winter Olympics. But it did not impact Matthew Mitcham who posted the highest-scoring dive in Olympic history in 2008.
Openly gay athletes may be a rarity in the sports world, but it does happen.
In April 2011 Austin Hendrix, a college track and cross-country athlete, announced he was gay, the Associated Press reported.
"You want to fit in, you want to have your teammates' respect," he said. "And a lot of people are ashamed to come out because they think their teammates will think less of them."
Hendrix eventually told his teammates about his sexual orientation after fearing a nightmare scenario of being shunned away and harassed. The runner worried himself for months but after coming out, no one reacted the way he thought.
"It surprised me when I first learned it," said James Hughes, Hendrix's straight roommate. "I never expected it, I didn't see it coming. And then, instantly, all I could think about was, 'I hope I never said anything to offend him.'"
British cricket star Steven Davies came out of the closet last year as well, which made him the first professional cricket player to come out before retirement.
"In cricket, Davies is England's first professional player to publicly announce he is gay. The wicketkeeper says he was inspired him by Thomas' example, who 'showed me it can be done,' " Associated Press sports columnist John Leicester said. "Davies says 'there was no one to look up to' before Thomas."
Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas made headlines in 2009 when he announced that he was gay.
"I've been through all sorts of emotions with this, tears, anger and absolute despair," he said. "I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to let people know and, to be honest, I feel anxious about people's reactions.
Thomas says that his coach and teammates were not bothered by his sexuality. "They came in, patted me on the back and said 'We don't care'," Thomas said. "Two of my best mates in rugby didn't even blink an eyelid."
Watch a clip of Dixon performing gymnastics: