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Gay Jamaican swimmer says coming out has not affected career

Michael Gunning hopes to compete in 2020 Summer Olympics

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Michael Gunning, Washington Blade, gay news
Michael Gunning came out on ‘The Bi Life,’ a British dating show. (Photo courtesy Gunning)

A gay swimmer of Jamaican descent says concerns that his decision to come out would adversely impact his career have not come to pass.

“Everyone has a different story, but for me personally I was worried that ‘coming out’ would take away from my sporting achievements/performances that I’ve worked and decided my whole life to,” Michael Gunning told the Blade on Aug. 8 in an email.

“Most sports are quite masculine dominated and I think it’s a worry for many athletes that it will take away the fear element from their performance — their opponents might see it as a weakness,” he added. “But for me, when I stand up to race I have to be happy — I normally wave to the crowd and listen to upbeat music, so it hasn’t really affected my ‘role’ as an athlete.”

Gunning, 25, lives in London.

He began to swim when he was 4 after his parents made him and his brother take swimming lessons. Gunning said he “hated it at first, but once I started getting confident in the water I was always getting in trouble for diving under the water and not listening to my teachers.” 

He joined a swimming club when he was 7.

“I’ve stayed in a competitive swimming club swimming ever since,” said Gunning.

Gunning, whose father was born in Jamaica, spoke with the Blade after he competed in the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru. Gunning said he hopes to represent Jamaica in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

“The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is the ultimate goal for just now,” said Gunning. “It’s always an honor to represent my county at any competition but the Olympics is so special and it’s something I’ve been working towards all my life so it would be the icing on the cake of my professional career.”

Gunning in 2018 decided to participate in “The Bi Life,” a British dating show that takes place in Barcelona.

“For the past 20 years swimming has taken up the majority of my life as I never dated or been in a relationship before as I never really found the time,” he said. “Despite walking around poolside with fit half naked people, I just learnt to switch off the attraction to anyone and it wasn’t until last year that I felt it was time to put myself out there and find myself a little more and I decided to do the show. I liked the concept of living with like-minded people in a villa for a few weeks — without the competition element — and find out what I was missing out on. 

“I’ve met so many people who struggle to come to terms with their sexuality so a part of me wanted to take part in the show to inspire as many people as I possibly could to show them that it’s ok to be new and inexperienced to dating and allow them share the journey with me,” added Gunning.

Gunning told the Blade he was a “real person going into the villa and just acted on real feeling.” He described his first date as “so nice.”

“After I went on a few more dates and a rollercoaster of emotions … I knew automatically that my feelings towards men overpowered the feelings towards women and it was so nice to be able to share those feelings with my villa mates as they were so supportive and were part of the journey with me,” said Gunning. “I had so many wonderful comments towards my coming out scene and it was so comforting to know that many people had been through the same thing too.” 

Gunning told the Blade that some people thought “I already knew I was gay.”

“But I felt like I owed it to myself to explore and find out for myself in my own way and it just happened that for me it was on TV,” he added. “The girls I dated on the show were so understanding and it’s wonderful that we live in a society where people are so loving and supporting others finding them self, and I’m still really good friends with them now.” 

Gunning met Tom Daley, a British Olympic diver who is married to director Dustin Lance Black, at the London Aquatics Performance Center in 2014. Gunning described Daley as a “great role model” who has “always been a dear friend of mine.”

“I’m also constantly inspired by the current people out in the LGBTQ world making a difference as everyone’s story is so unique and personal to them and it’s great they feel they should share it,” said Gunning.

Jamaica is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Violence and discrimination against Jamaicans based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity also continues to make headlines, even though the island’s LGBTI rights movement has become more visible in recent years.

“There is a harsh reality out in many Caribbean countries that any same-sex affection and/or activity is illegal and publishable of up to 10 years imprisonment,” acknowledged Gunning. “It breaks my heart that I would have to keep such affection to myself should I ever go and visit Jamaica.”

Gunning nevertheless told he Blade he regularly receives messages from LGBTI Jamaicans who share their stories with him.

“I do my best to offer them support and guidance,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to live out there with those legislations put in place, but they come to me because they don’t have anyone else and I try so hard to tell them everything is going to be ok. I hope within time and with the help of more black LGBT representatives, different Caribbean countries will be more willing to accept the developments of same sex couples.”

Amini Fonua, an openly gay Olympic swimmer from Tonga, applauded Gunning for his decision to come out.

“I think him coming out in a country as homophobic is super brave,” Fonua told the Blade.

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Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigns after homophobic emails surface

Discovery made during misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team

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Courtesy of ESPN

LAS VEGAS — The head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden resigned his post Monday after an article in the New York Times reported that he frequently used misogynistic and homophobic language directed at Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the National Football League, (NFL).

The emails were discovered in a workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team the Times reported, but ended up costing Gruden his job when they also showed Gruden denounced the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem among other issues.

In a statement released by the team late Monday, Gruden said; “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

The sequence of events started last Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to the Washington team’s former executive Bruce Allen.

According to the Associated Press, Gruden apologized for his “insensitive remarks” about Smith, saying they were made out of frustration over the 2011 lockout. But the latest emails sent from between 2011-18 when Gruden was an analyst for ESPN show his use of derogatory language went well beyond that.

A league source confirmed the accuracy of the emails to the Associated Press and said they were sent to the Raiders last week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t made the emails public.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both noted that Gruden used a gay slur to insult Goodell and said he was “clueless” and “anti-football.” He also said Goodell shouldn’t have pressured the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, who was the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

Gruden’s abrupt resignation was announced live on the Colts/Ravens “Monday Night Football” broadcast when the NFL ran multiple LGBTQ-inclusive advertisements, including one featuring an NFL logo wrapped in the colors of the Trans Flag and Rainbow Flag Gay City News Editor Matt Tracy reported.

Raiders owner Mark Davis issued a statement which only said that he accepted Gruden’s resignation. In a separate statement the Raiders announced that special teams and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia will serve as Interim Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, effective immediately.

“Coach Bisaccia will meet with the media at the regularly scheduled media availability on Wednesday,” the team said.

According to ESPN and the Associated Press, Bisaccia has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for 19 seasons with the Raiders, Chargers, Dallas and Tampa Bay. He has no head coaching experience but his elevation will allow other assistants in the Raiders organization such as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to stay in their current roles.

Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders head coach | SC with SVP

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New Zealand university names trans athlete ‘sportswoman of the year’

Laurel Hubbard is first out trans woman to compete in Olympics

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Screenshot via CBS Sports

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was named “sportswoman of the year” at the prestigious 113-year-old University of Otago and OUSA Blues and Golds Awards event this past week.

The 43-year-old Queenstown, South Island, native was the first openly transgender woman to compete in an Olympics when she competed in the women’s 87kg weightlifting event at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

In a statement to the local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, Hubbard said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University.’’

‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha [a Māori word meaning “love”] of friends, family and supporters.

‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey,’’ she told the paper.

Hubbard’s participation at the Tokyo Games had provoked controversy as she had prepared for competing as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Richard Budgett, directly addressed those who had attacked and mocked the New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey told the Otago Daily Times that the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport.

‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’

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Gold medalist Tom Daley battled COVID in hospital prior to Tokyo games

An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels

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Tom Daley (Photo by sportsphotographer.eu via Bigstock)

LONDON – British Olympic champion diver Tom Daley acknowledged in an recent interview with British newspaper The Times, that he had been secretly rushed to hospital seven months prior to the summer Tokyo Olympic games after contracting the coronavirus.

Daley told the paper “[my] lungs felt pressurised, as if they had sacks of rice around them”, and added: “Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body.”

He went on to describe his ordeal in graphic details telling Times journalist Jane Mulkerrins that he gave specific instructions to his husband, screenwriter D. Lance Black one night as he headed off to sleep, what to do in the event he quit breathing.

He also told Mulkerrins he was frightened for their son Robbie if he and his husband both contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially after he was rushed to hospital by ambulance unable to breath correctly.

When his head began to feel like it had “a vice tightening around it” and his “oxygen levels were dropping,” it was at that point Daley said he decided to call 111. [The UK’s emergency phone number]

‘My oxygen levels were dropping’

He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and put on oxygen. An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels, The Times reported.

“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill,” said Daley.

“I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified.”

He also described his reasons for keeping his ordeal secret so that his rivals in his sport wouldn’t know.

The episode kept the Olympian diver out of training for nearly seven months although Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on at the Tokyo 2021 games.

After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, the 27-year-old Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25.

It was the second Olympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, England native, in individual diving completion since he won bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronised at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

The Times interview comes as the paper’s magazine is serializing Daley’s new book, Coming Up for Air: What I Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood, which is due to be published by Harper Collins on October 14.

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