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Wales rugby hero Gareth Thomas announces he is gay

Sunday Dec 20, 2009
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Wales rugby union legend Gareth Thomas publicly announced Saturday he is gay, saying that living a double life had driven him to suicidal despair.

The Cardiff Blues full-back, 35, told the Daily Mail newspaper that keeping his sexuality a secret had made his adult life agony and feelings of guilt towards his wife Jemma plunged him into depression.

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Thomas is one of the few top international sportsmen to say publicly that he is gay.

He is Wales’ most-capped player with 100 appearances, and ninth in the all-time Test try scoring list with 41, including one from his three Lions caps.

"I’ve been through all sorts of emotions with this, tears, anger and absolute despair," he said.

"I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to let people know and, to be honest, I feel anxious about people’s reactions.

"It’s been really tough for me, hiding who I really am, and I don’t want it to be like that for the next young person who wants to play rugby, or some frightened young kid."

The former Bridgend and Toulouse back said he knew he was gay at the age of 16 or 17.

"I could never accept it because I knew I would never be accepted as a gay man and still achieve what I wanted to achieve in the game," he said.

"I became a master of disguise and could play the straight man down to a tee, sometimes over-compensating by getting into fights or being overly aggressive because I didn’t want the real me to be found out.

"But when you withdraw into yourself you start to feel lonely, upset, ashamed."

He met future wife Jemma at a friend’s 18th birthday party.

"I genuinely did love her. She was the nicest, most caring, understanding, prettiest girl I had ever met," he said.

"It was such a confusing time because I had amazingly strong feelings for her, yet I knew I had taken who I was and put it in a little ball and pushed it in a corner."

The pair married in 2002. They separated in 2006 and their divorce is due to be finalised. The couple suffered three miscarriages.

"I used to pray as hard as I could. I would say to God: ’I have Jemma, I love her. Please take away these feelings that I have’," Thomas said.

He said inner pain and depression repeatedly led him to contemplate suicide by jumping off a cliff.

His marriage falling apart, in November 2006, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff after a Wales game, Thomas broke down in the dressing room.

He confessed to Scott Johnson, a coach, who, thinking Thomas could do with the support, told his team-mates Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams.

"They came in, patted me on the back and said ’We don’t care’," Thomas said.

"Two of my best mates in rugby didn’t even blink an eyelid."

Since then he has told his Cardiff Blues team-mates and it has not caused a problem.

"I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost," Thomas said.

"I am a man. I just happen to be gay. It’s irrelevant. What I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby.

"It’s pretty tough for me being the only international rugby player prepared to break the taboo.

"Statistically I can’t be the only one, but I’m not aware of any other gay player still in the game.

"I’d love for it, in 10 years’ time, not to even be an issue in sport, and for people to say: ’So what?’"

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