The Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, 34, is the eighth athlete to come out of the closet this year. Liukkonen, who participated in the Olympic Games last year, and won a bronze medal at the European Championships that same year, says he came out of the closet to raise awareness of the Russian Federation's anti-gay laws.
Liukkonen, who is now one of many openly gay athletes, stated: "I wanted to start a broader discussion in connection with Sochi, because it’s sad that the legislation in Russia restricts the human rights of young people and others". He also hopes that his coming out will contribute to a more open attitude towards sexual orientation in the world of sports. “Homosexuality is the same kind of characteristic as whether a person has blue or brown eyes, or whether they are left- or right-handed.”
He went on to say that in the past two years, he has come out to his parents and friends first, and that everyone responded in a positive way. The swimmer now is suffering from a respiratory infection that is caused by bacteria. The infection can vary from a simple cold to pneumonia, but he is optimistic about his participation at the Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. With his coming out, Linkkonen is the first openly gay sports ace in Finland.
This year, several athletes preceded him
The British semi-pro footballer Liam Davis is the first openly British footballer who is still active
Brazilian Olympic diver Ian Matos
German former footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger
Canadian professional volleyball player Chris Voth is the first athlete in Canada to come out of the closet
American Conner Mertens, College Baseball player, is the first still active player in the US
Argentinian professional boxer Anna Laura La Monita' Esteche, partner of Ohana Giménez
Argentinian professional boxer Ohana 'Yoki' Giménez - partner of Anna Esteche
Boyfriend of American Football player also out of the closet
American Chandler Whitney, a College Baseball player, asked: Hey... 'Do you know Conner Mertens, the first College Baseball player ever to come out of the closet? Well.. that's my boyfriend. That is how Whitney came out in an interview with Outsports.com.
Encouraged by the positive response on Conner Merten's coming out, his boyfriend Changler Whitney also decided to come out. This makes him the second, still active College Baseball player in the US. When he told his team mates, they broke into spontaneous applause. Whitney did not expect this at all. "I didn't necessarily expect hostility, but I expected a guy or two to feel uncomfortable or awkward. Everyone on the team shook my hand, gave me a hug and said we're a family and they had my back".