Words: Alastair James; Photography: Dean Ryan McDaid
Michael Gunning says being bullied in school made him suppress his sexuality as it reveals how racism and first-hand homophobia fueled his fight for equality in sport .
Appearing on the cover of the Attitude Body Issue – now available to download and order worldwide – the swimmer and 200m butterfly specialist says he hopes to be the representation in the sport he missed growing up.
“I knew I was different”
Opening up to his youth, Michael says, “I was really bullied when I was in school, mostly because of the color of my skin. I knew I was different and if I’m being honest I think that’s why I suppressed my sexuality because it was something else that I was very different in. “
The 27-year-old continued, “People were telling me I should stay on the athletic track, that I should do something that a black person would do, you know, stay in a black dominated sport. It was always hard because I’m mixed race […] I think it made me even more separated from the others “
Breaking down barriers and shattering myths, Michael says he’s very proud of where he is now. “I went through a lot on my trip […] So to finally be true to myself, be genuine and show people that it’s okay. I’m an openly gay athlete, openly gay swimmer, and happy.
Taking us back to the very beginning Michael says he started swimming at the age of four and joined his first club three years later.
“Swimming really takes me to a place of total zen. I love being in the water, challenging myself and breaking stereotypes. When I was younger, the teachers told me I couldn’t go. ‘across the pool in a while and would love to challenge them.
Michael Gunning wears Speedo trunks (Photo: Dean Ryan McDaid)
He cites his proudest moment to date representing Jamaica at its first world championships, which he describes as “just amazing”.
Running 65-70 km per week, he proves that the swimmer’s routine is very strict with two training sessions per day. But he says (much to our regret – have you seen him ?!) Sadly, like all of us, he’s had to deal with being locked inside for big chunks over the past year and a half, which is not great from a training point of view.
On the body it says “everyone is so different whether you’re black, white, really ripped or not.” In swimming, it’s all about performance – getting from one end of the pool to the other, ”but Michael recognizes that it is difficult to manage your sanity and compare yourself to others.
Finally, he says, “When I grew up I never really had that representation in sports – nobody really looked like me, nobody really acted like me, so I think I felt pretty lonely in this. sense.
“I hope that I am now on the world stage and that I am this inspiration to many, they can hopefully follow in my footsteps.”
The Attitude Body Issue is now available.
Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £ 1 each, or digitally for just over £ 1.50 per issue.