New Zealand Rower Robbie Manson is poised and ready to compete in Rio de Janeiro for his second Olympics. Although Manson participated in the 2012 London Olympics, there's been a major change in his personal life since then — he publicly came out as a gay.
In a personal essay published by Outsports on Tuesday, the 26-year-old describes how enjoyable his life has been since proudly declaring who he is.
"Being gay is no longer something I think about all the time," Manson wrote. "It just feels normal and I feel like I fit in far better being myself than I ever did trying to be something that I'm not. I used to want to crawl under a rock and hide if anything gay came up in conversation, in fear that someone might notice my face turning bright red and see how uncomfortable I was. Now, on the other hand, I happily and confidently answer questions teammates might have about anything gay."
Manson is one of 41 openly gay, lesbian or bisexual athletes competing in Rio — a new Olympic record.
Since he came out in 2014, Manson has not only been able to focus on his sport, but he says that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"One of the best things about coming out publicly have been the messages and stories I have received from people who are going through or have gone through a similar thing and have said that my story has helped them in some way," he wrote. "That has made it worth sharing my story, even if it's only in a small way."
Manson won his bronze medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, and he attributes his growth as a rower from his decision to come out. He hopes to capture his first Olympic medals in Rio.