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Gay Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen named Finland’s Sports Role Model of 2014

Gay Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen named Finland’s Sports Role Model of 2014

Finland has recognized its most prominent openly gay athlete as a national sporting role model during an annual sports gala recognizing the best sporting achievements for 2014.

25-year-old Finnish swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen came out as gay in February to protest the treatment of LGBTI people in Russia ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics in what many said was a brave mood for an athlete at the top of their career.

In doing so Liukkonen became only the first male elite sportsperson to come out in Finland while still competing professionally despite the country’s LGBTI friendly reputation.

Liukkonen was chosen as Sports Role Model of the Year for 2014 by a panel of 25 people representing all levels of sporting life in Finland.

Finnish journalist Ossi Halme told Outsports that he had not been sure whether Liukkonen would be chosen as 2014’s sporting role model but was glad that he had in the end.

‘I think this came as a nice surprise,’ Halme said, ‘I was a bit unsure whether or not Liukkonen would win.’

‘He has strong merits from the pool. Then again, I wasn’t sure if the jury would really understand how much of a role model it makes him that he came out during the busiest time of his career. I’m glad and somewhat relieved to see that he won.’

Liukkonen represented Finland at the 2012 London Olympics and won the bronze medal in the 50-meter freestyle competition at the world swimming championships in Dubai last summer.

He is the current Finnish national record holder in the 50-meter freestyle competition.