Former Olympic swimmer Mark Foster has come out as gay in an interview with the Guardian.
Foster, 47, has broken eight world records and won six World Championship titles. He swam for Great Britain five times in the Olympic Games.
He tells the Guardian that he’s been out in his personal life and has dated men for 26 years. However, coming out publicly was nerve-wracking.
“I was a bit nervous today but I kept busy,” Foster says. “I was tidying the house for you [he laughs]. I was a little apprehensive but years ago I would have been fearful of how I would be judged. Maybe that’s me being older and having a long time to get used to the idea.”
At 30, he says he revealed his sexuality to a fellow swimmer during a drunken night.
“I was training in Germany with my mate Neil Willey and Therese Alshammar, one of the most decorated swimmers of all time. We shared a flat and every Saturday night we’d go out. Once, pissed in this nightclub, I was dancing close to Therese. Neil sat at the bar giving me this look of thunder because he was seeing her. I went over and he said: ‘What are you doing so close to Therese?’ I said: ‘Mate, you’ve got nothing to worry about. I’m gay.’ He went: ‘Oh!’ My shield was down because I was pissed and felt comfortable sharing it with him and Therese,” Foster says.
Foster decided to share his sexuality with the world after the death of his father and during a break from his longterm partner.
“I tiptoed around the issue for so long,” Foster continued. “I got really good at the dance of telling half-truths. I’ve supported the Terence Higgins Trust, Stonewall, Ben Cohen’s Stand Up to Bullying campaign. But I’ve always done it under the radar. At the Sochi Olympics [in 2014] I did a piece for Huffington Post. I was shocked by the treatment of gay people in Russia and needed to say something – without revealing anything about myself. So I half-said something. It’s always been half-truths in public.”