Competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi was meant to be a dream come true for Calgary native John Fennell.
But reality was quite different.
The 19-year-old luge athlete came out in an interview with the Calgary Herald Wednesday, telling the paper he was a "basket case" going to the Sochi Olympics.
Fennell said his life in the closet was "suffocating."
“You have to play this game of, ‘who knows?’ You can’t let off any vibes or secrets. You have to act super macho,” he told the Herald.
Fennell decided to reveal to he is gay today, as he celebrates his 19th birthday.
Following Fennell’s announcement, fans and admirers took to social media to congratulate and support his brave move.
A lot of "tough guy" athletes can learn a lot from the grace and ease of @johncanluge's brave and simple coming out. Bravo!— Jonathan W Levy (@wolflevy) May 28, 2014
Bravo to John Fennell @johncanluge for stepping up as a role model. Integrity.— swmbo (@SwmboShel) May 28, 2014
— Brad Spence (@bradcspence) May 28, 2014
With Sochi’s anti-gay laws and regulations, Fennell also said he felt isolated during the Games.
He told the Herald he didn't use his phone or computer in fear of being caught.
Fennell, who finished 27th in the men’s single run in Sochi, comes from a family of athletes – his father, David Fennell, is a former Canadian Football League player and his brother plays for Michigan State’s football team.
After Sochi, Fennell says he revealed to his friends, teammates and family that he was gay, calling it a “liberating” experience.
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