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Coming out: Eric Radford inspired by COC's One Team initiative

12/05/2014 01:47 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST
Eric Radford says he hopes to use his position as one of Canada's top athletes to help guide or inspire other young gay people.

"I feel so lucky that my skating is giving me a voice big enough for people to listen," Radford said in a Canadian Press interview on Thursday.

The two-time world championship bronze medallist publicly came out in an interview this week with "Outsports."

"There has always been a part inside of me that would have eventually, whether it was now or later," he said.

Radford hails from Balmertown in northwestern Ontario.  His pairs figure skating partner Meagan Duhamel comes from Lively, in northeastern Ontario.

Radford later told CBC News he was inspired to come out by the Canadian Olympic Committee's new One Team initiative which is aimed at supporting LGBT community members in sport.  

"Deep down I knew that I would eventually want to use my talent in more than just one way,” he said.

“We're getting right to where we want to be, Meagan and I, in our skating career. We're gunning for that world title, but the results that we have achieved have given me a voice. And I almost feel like I have a responsibility with everything that I went through and everything that I learned to just share my story. I think that it really can just inspire and make a difference in a bigger way than just being a great competitor and a great figure skater."

'I just was who I was'

Radford said he hopes people can relate to his story — whether or not they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. 

"It doesn't have to be about sexuality. It can just be about being different in general,” he said.

“I was very awkward when I was younger.  And I got bullied and I got teased.  There was nothing I could do about it.  I just was who I was.”

Radford said he considers himself lucky to have had “a lot of support from my family and my friends as I made my way through my career.”

The bullying “never pushed me to the point where it never prevented me from achieving my dreams or prevented me from staying motivated from pursuing my dream."

Growing up in Balmertown, Radford said he didn't immediately recognize that he was gay, but he felt he was always different.

"I was attracted to different things,” he recalled.

“I was artistic.  It didn't help that I was the only male figure skater up there in a hockey town.  It all kind of combined to make me a kid that was a target [who] was very easy to make fun of."

When he moved to Kenora after Grade 8, he "had the opportunity to recreate myself" and consciously practised acting differently than he naturally did.

"I've never forgotten all those terrible moments but, of course, now being older and having made it as far as I have, I really have an appreciation for what I went through,” he said.

“It really did make me stronger and it just helped me realize what was really important.”

Forgiveness has played a role too.

Radford said on occasion, when he has gone back up to Red Lake, “a couple of those people who I remember teasing me have come up, and they've apologized to me. I really, really appreciated that, and it lets me know that all my hard work was worth it."

Asked what he'd say to other young people in his home town struggling with anti-gay prejudice, he said, "No matter what, be yourself."

“Never let anybody ... make fun of or put down your dreams or what you think is important or cool.  That will ultimately lead you to being successful and achieving your dreams."

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