Gay, black and fast: Olympic hopeful swims against tide of homophobia in Jamaica

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07/22/2020

Early in his budding career as a professional swimmer, Olympic hopeful Michael Gunning faced a regular putdown in the pool from snide schoolmates: “Black people don’t swim.” But rather than be bullied out of the water and a sport he loved, Gunning said the slights only made him swim faster. “For me, it was just a motivation to prove them wrong and get selected for Team GB and be away for weeks from school and then come back and show them my medals,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview. It worked. This week, Gunning would most likely have been part of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – had the new coronavirus not interrupted the games as well as his stellar career, with three Jamaica records already under his belt. Gunning’s parents first took him swimming at age four.

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