Record-holding Canadian swimmer Markus Thormeyer has come out as gay, penning a moving essay for Out Sports.
Thormeyer, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics and at last year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, wrote that he "thought it would be easy" for him to keep his sexuality a secret from his training group - "at least until the Olympic qualifications in April 2016."
The 22-year-old added: "I was wrong."
"I found out pretty fast how hard it was going to be for me to not come out to my teammates. The following months in the closet were difficult and keeping my sexuality a secret got progressively harder every day.”
Thormeyer went on to explain that hiding his sexuality had become a "huge distraction" to his training, while also affecting his relationships with teammates.
“Some days I dreaded going to the pool in fear that my sexuality would be exposed," he wrote.
"I’d show up late and leave early to social gatherings and workouts. Some days it would even spiral and I would question why I was swimming and be scared of my own goals.”
Thormeyer eventually made the decision to come out to his teammates, telling them he was nervous about an upcoming date with a guy. The response, he said, was overwhelmingly positive - leaving him with “the best feeling in the world.”
“My training got better, I got stronger and my technique got sharper," he wrote, adding that his relationships with teammates also began to flourish.
“I want to share my story and be able to spread the message that it’s OK to be gay. Life is much better when you fully embrace you for who you are.”
You can read Thormeyer's full essay at Outsports.