Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen has come out as gay, saying he wants to talk publicly about his sexual orientation close to the Sochi Olympic games to help raise awareness of Russia’s controversial anti-gay “propaganda” law.
“Finally I can be myself,” says Liukkonen, in an interview with YLE, Finland’s national public broadcasting company.
“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,” Liukkonen told YLE.
The Russian law, signed by President Vladimir Putin last June, prohibits the “promotion of non-traditional relationships” as either normal or equal to that of heterosexual relationships.
Liukkonen also said that the Finnish sporting world is in need of a more open attitude to sexuality, and that he hopes that “in the future … elite athletes and other people will not find homosexuality to be any kind of news.”
“My family has received the news positively, and everyone has supported me,” he said. “Actually they had already sensed that I am like this.”
Liukkonen becomes the first gay Finnish athlete to come out during his active career. He competed at the 2012 London Olympics and has won bronze at the European Championships. He is the Finnish record holder in the 50 meter freestyle.