Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: PA Images / Alamy
The British swimmer Dan Jervis has come out as gay.
The 26-year-old opened up about his sexuality to the BBC saying: "everyone's journey is different, but I think I've always known."
A few weeks ahead of the Welsh distance swimmer’s third consecutive Commonwealth Games, Jervis remarked that coming to terms with his sexuality has been a long process, but at the age of 24 he began telling those closest to him that he was gay.
"It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved - but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this," the swimming star says.
He continues: "It wasn't affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn't enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy."
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In the interview, Jervis also remarks he confided in a counsellor he’d known for years to help him process his sexuality, "at that point, I'd never said the words out loud to myself," Jervis admits.
He adds: "And for so long, I hated who I was - and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they're ending their lives."
He also says: "It took 24 years to be who I was, but now I'm happy. I look in the mirror and I like who I am."
Jervis notes that it has been, in part, other LGBT sports stars who have given him the confidence to speak about his sexuality publicly.
He names swimmer Michael Gunning, hammer thrower Osian Jones and swimmer Mark Foster as some of those who have cleared the way for his own declaration.
Jervis joins a growing number of sporting competitors coming out (Dame Kelly Holmes, Jake Daniels, Nick McCarthy) and their collective openness will inevitably contribute to the sporting world’s inclusivity – pushing back against the likes of FINA’s recent restrictions on transgender athletes in elite women's competitions.
Additionally, Jervis hopes that he can be a role model to kids and adults who see him competing as an openly gay man.
"When I was younger in swimming, I wasn't aware of any out swimmers so didn't have anyone I could look to who was like me. I want to be that person for someone," the Welshman says.
It is not only the world of sport in which Jervis hopes to make a difference, as a self-described "devout Christian" he hopes to dismantle the idea that "you can't be Christian and gay together" by his very existence as a gay Christian man.
As Jervis prepares for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games he notes that the goal of his coming out is very simple: 'if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, 'yeah, they're like me,' then that's good."
The Welsh swimmer will be looking to add a 1500m freestyle gold to the bronze won in Glasgow in 2014, and the silver earned on the Gold Coast four years ago in Birmingham.
The Attitude July/August issue is out now.