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Kiwi Olympian reveals he is gay

Published: 6:56AM Thursday May 06, 2010 Source: NZPA

Kiwi Winter Olympian Blake Skjellerup has confirmed he is gay in an interview with an Australian magazine.

In a rare public admission by a New Zealand athlete, the speed skater said he delayed coming out publicly until after the February games in Vancouver for fear of affecting his focus and potential sponsors.

"The first real issue was that I was there to compete - to focus on my skating - and to not have the focus on my sexuality," he said in an interview with DNA magazine, excerpts of which were published online.

"We are not yet at the point in society where being a gay sportsperson is not a big deal. If I was asked during any of my twenty-something interviews at the Olympics whether I had a boyfriend or a girlfriend - in the same sentence - I would have replied honestly, but I may have replied hesitantly."

Skjellerup, 24, made the quarterfinals in the men's 1000m short-track event in Vancouver.

He said his New Zealand team-mates knew of his sexuality and although some didn't want to hear about it, he wasn't discriminated against.

The article said Canada-based Skjellerup was in a relationship with another competitive athlete.

Skjellerup said he suffered homophobic taunts from some fellow athletes early in his career.

"Gays are too often given a stereotype. Back when I was 18, and becoming serious about my sport and my Olympic goals, if I could have seen an athlete like myself out there - with whom I could relate to - my journey would have been a lot easier."

Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas and Australia's Beijing Olympic diving gold medallist Matthew Mitcham are the most recent high profile athletes to come out.