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Gay gymnast says athletes' fluctuating bodies 'aren't spoken about enough'

"Not all gymnasts have big biceps, not all divers have an 8 pack," says Dominic Clarke, who has taken a break from training since the Olympics

2021-11-18

Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: Instagram

Dominic Clarke, an Australian gymnast who competed at this year's Olympic Games, has spoken out about athletes' fluctuating bodies and the pressure within the athletic community and beyond to look a certain way.

The 24-year-old, who is gay, took part in this summer's Tokyo Games as a trampoline gymnast.

In a post Tuesday, Clarke - who also shared a topless photograph of what his body currently looks like post-Olympics - said he has given his mind and body time to recover since the high-profile sporting event.

"As an athlete, often people don’t realise how seemingly minor changes in our bodies can affect our mental health and emotional well-being," he explained.

"I didn’t expect to worry about taking my shirt off at training"

His caption in full reads: "So my body’s changed since the Olympics. With the expectation from society and social media of what Olympic athletes should look like, and pressure from a subjective sport, the normalisation of fluctuation and diversity with our bodies as athletes isn’t spoken about enough.

"I gave my body and brain months to recover post the Olympics out of the gym, naturally I wasn’t going to look how I did at the peak fitness after a month of rest, but I didn’t expect to worry about taking my shirt off at training from fear of being judged by 'not looking athletic enough' when I know that’s not the case.

 
 
 
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A post shared by Dominic (@_domclarke)

"As an athlete, often people don’t realise how seemingly minor changes in our bodies can affect our mental health and emotional well-being. I am aware that I am not the traditional “face” for body positive dialogue, however to me this is a big conversation I have with myself a lot, and want others to feel confident to have for their own well-being.

"Not all gymnasts have big biceps, not all divers have an 8 pack, and high performance doesn’t have an ideal body type.

"If you have any advice or want a space to share experience, my DMs are open."

Elaborating on the post to Attitude, Clarke told us last night: "When it comes to sport, it's performative at the end of the day, and the small changes in my body composition do make a difference to what I am able to produce on the trampoline, so the pressure to stay fit and lean is objective. But I don't know why as a gay man I need extra pressure on my body complicating how I already feel about it. As a gay Olympian, there's an expectation of what people think my body should look like before they see it or even talk to me, and I think these kind of ingrained attitudes towards each others' bodies are damaging, and through having these conversations we can start focusing on our own body journeys and happiness."