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Gymnast Ioannis Melissanidis on becoming Greece's 'first openly gay Olympic champion'

"I am as proud [of this] as I am for my medals."

2021-08-16

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Instagram/@imelissanidis

Gymnast and Olympic gold medal-winner Ioannis Melissanidis has opened up about his sexuality in a new interview.

Speaking to Greek publication ANTIVIRUS, the 44-year-old said he is "as proud [of being gay] as I am for my medals. And I will be even more when there will be no need to talk about topics like this." 

The now-retired sportsman won Olympic gold in Atlanta in 1996 on the floor exercise.

"Kids in Greece have less fear to express their diversity these days"

Saying he accepts the title of 'the first openly gay Olympic champion', Melissanidis shared his advice to young LGBTQs who are aspiring athletes, saying "never suppress its life and its will. To accept [...] sexuality and be focused on what they love, without exceptions. The true win is to show everyone who you are and not to pretend to be what society wants you be.

"If the society has any concerns about the fact that I, a fully realised man, want to fall in love with another man, it’s a problem the society should solve."

According to ANTIVIRUS, Melissanidis is the first and youngest Olympic, World and European Champion in the history of Greek Artistic Gymnastics and one of the three youngest in the history of World Artistic Gymnastics.

Elsewhere in the interview, he said he knows of closeted Greek Olympians, saying: "There are people that [...] are still concerned and I respect that."

He added: "Since 2000 there have been steps taken towards that direction. I believe that kids in Greece have less fear to express their diversity these days. But the steps that should be taken that have to do with acceptance are way much more, especially in high-level sports that there are still so many stereotypes. I believe we are moving to the right direction."

The star's interview is accompanied by a photoshoot that took place at Panathinaikos Stadium in Athens.

The first modern Olympics took place in 1896 in Athens. The ancient games were staged in Olympia, Greece from 776 BC.

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