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    Updated on Aug 24, 2020. Posted on Feb 2, 2014

    Finnish Olympian Swimmer Comes Out As Gay

    "It’s a really great feeling that I can finally be myself."

    This is Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, who publicly came out today.

    Adam Pretty / Getty Images

    He came out to Finnish outlet Yle because he wanted to speak publicly about his sexuality close to the Sochi Olympic games to shed light on Russia’s controversial anti-gay legislation.

    Jarno Ranta / Via Yle

    Ari-Pekka Liukkonen at the Yle office. "Urheiluviikonloppu" means "Sports Weekend" in Finnish, and is the title of Yle's weekend sports show that Liukkonen came out on.

    "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."

    The 24-year-old, the first in the country to come out during his career, said he is hoping for a more positive approach toward sexuality in the Finnish sporting world.

    Via Facebook: LiukkonenAP

    "In the future I would hope that elite athletes and other people will not find homosexuality to be any kind of news," he said.

    Liuokkonen said it took him a while to accept his sexuality. "I tried to forget about it, but during high school I began to accept that I am made this way."

    Via Facebook: LiukkonenAP

    He added, "Acceptance hasn’t necessarily been easy, but it hasn’t been horribly difficult either. This has been a long, slow process for me, but now I’m there."

    The swimmer came out to his sister two years ago, and his parents last month.

    Via Facebook: LiukkonenAP

    "My family has received the news positively, and everyone has supported me," he said. "Actually, they had already sensed that I am like this."

    "Homosexuality is the same kind of characteristic as whether a person has blue or brown eyes, or whether they are left- or right-handed," he said.

    Read the entire interview here.