Rainbow Laces: Swimmer Michael Gunning says campaign shows 'sport is for everyone'

Rainbow Laces: Swimmer Michael Gunning says campaign shows 'sport is for everyone'

Gunning, who holds dual Jamaican and British citizenship, competed in two world championships and set national records for both Team GB and Team Jamaica during his career in the pool.

In May, he announced his retirement from competitive swimming and said that he now wants to 'make a real impact' and a difference.

Gunning came out as as gay in late 2018 and shared that he'd had a difficult time during his childhood before ultimately reaching that point.

"Sport is for everyone," he said. "When I was younger, I always used to think that I didn't fit in, I had to suppress my sexuality and I couldn't speak about it.

"This campaign (Rainbow Laces) really does shine that light to show that sport is for everybody, and everyone can take part. It's not just about wearing the rainbow laces; it's about starting those conversations.

"It's about educating yourself and being that good ally because ultimately being surrounded by people that can really connect and understand, and you can be your open, true self with, I think that's what it's all about. Try and surround yourself with those types of people and be open and honest about it."

This year, Rainbow Laces season kicks off between October 19 and 31, with Rainbow Laces Day on October 26. The campaign is encouraging people to continue to lace up, speak up and keep it up.

New research from ICM/Walnut and Stonewall has shone a light on the impact of the Rainbow Laces campaign to date.

Over the last five years, the proportion of sport fans who think homophobic remarks in sport are acceptable has almost halved - from 25 per cent in 2017 to 14 per cent in 2022.

Gunning is pleased to see that number has decreased and believes that continuing the conversation will help that number to continue to drop further.

"The more we talk about this, the more that it will help change different mindsets and perspectives," he said.

"Being an openly gay swimmer, I was the first to come out in Jamaica. It's very scary at times, I felt very lonely but the fact that we (as swimmers) have the support from the crowd.

"Swimming is quite inclusive; I feel very lucky to be a swimmer because I know that not every sport has that same support," Gunning continued.

"For other sports, we do really need to try and get that statistic down because it's not okay at all to be homophobic in those arenas. Sports people are just normal people, just doing what they love. "

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