Canadian luger John Fennell just turned 19, but he's already competed in one Olympics. Even so, he's felt he's been living life under a cloud, and to clear the air, he took the opportunity of his 19th birthday on Wednesday to announce that he is gay.
The reason, Fennell told the Calgary Herald, is because he could no longer go on living a life of secrecy, being untrue to himself. “It’s suffocating,” he said. “You have to play this game of, ‘who knows?’ You can’t let off any vibes or secrets. You have to act super macho. You have to be hyper aware of your mannerisms and to not let off any vibes that could get detected. It’s very exhausting. It’s an all-consuming paranoia of who could find out through what means.”
Fennell joins an ever-growing list of athletes coming out as gay, including the New Jersey Nets' Jason Collins and the St. Louis Rams' Michael Sam. Fennell said that he felt alone and isolated in Sochi, as there were so few publicly gay athletes present at the Games. As a result, he wants to do all he can to make sure no one else following in his wake feels the same.
"Realistically, I put on a spandex suit and slide down a mountain," he said. "I’m no message board for political movements. But we need to have leaders in our sport community. If it takes a 19 year old to step up and do that, I’m more than willing to use my voice or the platform that I’ve been given to give a figurehead to gay youth in sport.”