Sports

For Canadian Olympic athlete Markus Thormeyer, coming out to his teammates was part of his success

“A happy swimmer swims fast,” Thormeyer says.

Markus Thormeyer of Delta, BC is one of the young athletes representing Canada at the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. He has a lot of accomplishments and is looking forward to having more this summer, but his story is also about gaining more comfort with yourself can help you in your competitions.

The 23 year old was born in Newmarket Ontario. Thormeyer has then graduated from highschool and has moved to BC in 2015 to swim for the University of British Columbia to follow his dreams to compete in the Olympics. While swimming for UBC, he has been named the first male swimmer from UBC to swim for team Canada and will be racing in the Tokyo rescheduled 2020 Olympic games. It will be his second showing in the Olympics since the Rio 2016 Olympic games. In UBC he is also studying environmental sciences aside from swimming and has spent most of his time there during the pandemic. He has also been named Top 8 Academic All-Canadians in 2019-2020 by U Sports, an organization that works with University School sports teams.  

In the Tokyo Olympic games Thormeyer has been given a guaranteed spot to swim in the 200 metre backstroke, but his number one priority right now is training for the Canadian Olympic trials in July 19-23, held in Toronto in the Pan Am Sports Centre. There he will compete with other Canadian swimmers to qualify for events like the 100 metre freestyle and 100 metre backstroke. 

The swimmer is already highly experienced, having competed at a high level since the age of 17. During the 2015 Pan Am Games he earned himself a silver medal for the 4x100m freestyle relay. The results during the Pan Am Games got him a spot for the 2015 Fina World Junior Championships. He placed 6th in both the 100 metre backstroke and freestyle but his most impressive race during the Championships is the mixed 4×100 metre freestyle relay where his team placed first and also set a world junior record. 

While swimming for UBC from 2017 through 2020, he earned over 20 medals.

But despite competing at high levels, Thormeyer also struggled with self doubt. In an essay published on Outsports, Thormeyer describes how he was initially hesitant to reveal his sexuality when he moved to a new training group in 2015. Thormeyer kept this a secret, fearing how his teammates would react to learning that he was gay, and whether or not they would accept him.

“I thought it would be easy for me to keep my sexuality a secret with my new training group, at least until the Olympic Qualifications in April 2016. I found out pretty fast how hard it was going to be for me to not come out to my teammates,” he wrote.

He was afraid that coming out would affect his and his teammates’ chances of making it to the 2016 Rio Olympic games, so he avoided that topic entirely. During every practice he has felt private while his teammates were open and free. While training he has felt a little down because his teammates were not getting to know the true Markus Thormeyer. 

“Some days I dreaded going to the pool in fear that my sexuality would be exposed.” He would be late to social gatherings with his team and leave early fearing about his sexuality being revealed and getting out to the public and his teammates. 

When he decided to come out he didn’t want it to become a big scene when he was letting out his secret, Thormeyer casually came out by asking his teammates, telling them that he’s never been on a date with a man. After saying that, his teammates responded by telling him to just be comfortable and to be himself. 

After telling his teammates about his sexuality he has felt better than ever, he could finally be himself and have no distractions while he is training for the Olympics. Coming out to his teammates has made Thormeyer a better swimmer, his technique has gotten better and has gotten stronger both mentaly and physically. He has taught himself to be comfortable in his own skin. 

After coming out and publishing his essay in Outsports, Thormeyer also joined team Canada’s OneTeam that promotes LGBTQ+ athletes and fights any type of gender-based discrimination in sports.  

Being his full, authentic self, has helped him in his competitions.

“I’m just a big believer in a happy swimmer swims fast. Once I could enjoy being me, I could also enjoy my swimming,” Thormeyer wrote.  “When I enjoyed my swimming, I swam faster.”

Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons / TorontoGuy79

1 comment on “For Canadian Olympic athlete Markus Thormeyer, coming out to his teammates was part of his success

  1. Pingback: The capabilities I have demonstrated through my work in New Media Lab – HuemingChang Blog

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