Venezuelan Olympic diver Robert Páez has come out as gay in a moving essay.
The 23-year-old represented his South American country at the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Writing for website Outsports, Páez said he hoped everybody would be able to find their “true self” and he’d known that he was gay since his childhood.
“Growing up in Venezuela, I knew from a very young age that I was different, despite not knowing what exactly that meant,” he said.
“It was a source of worry that I was interested in things like dancing and fashion, things that in my culture were for women and gays.
“I shied away from doing many things. I was at times ashamed to go out into society, to face who I really was.
“It’s a difficult road, to know at a young age that we feel something that makes us believe we are not ‘right’ in the eyes of society.
“Yet the truth is that if I was born that way, it was because God created me and he wanted it that way.”
Páez explained that his family were all very accepting. He says he hopes his story inspires young LGBTI people to embrace who they are and break the stigma for out athletes.
“In sharing my story, I hope to help make homosexuality as common of a word as heterosexuality,” he said.
“Being gay does not make us less as a man, or girls less as a woman. Being gay is not a disease.
“Accepting ourselves and respecting ourselves are big first steps.
“Life is too beautiful to be hidden in a closet.”
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Venezuela and same-sex couples have few legal protections despite the country’s thriving gay community.