There will be at least one very openly gay swimmer at next week’s Olympic Swim Trials. Andrew Langenfeld is a swimmer at Purdue University and will be aiming for a spot on the Olympic team in the 100-meter butterfly. He’s been dating guys since he was at West Virginia University, where he dated another guy on the team for a while before leaving for Purdue a couple years ago.
Langenfeld will take his plunge into the Olympic Swim Trials on July 4 (NBC has primetime coverage that night). He says he’s seeded 80th out of about 150 competitors; the top two finishers in the event make the Olympic team. One of the men he’ll be swimming against next week is Michael Phelps, who has been the national champion in the event each of the last seven years and holds the Olympic record in the event. So it’s no big surprise that Langenfeld sees one spot as being open, barring an injury to Phelps.
He hasn’t encountered any homophobia in swimming, he says, though he’s caught a bit of flack from athletes in other sports. Even at West Virginia, which has a stereotypical reputation of being homophobic, his teammates were supportive – until the breakup with his boyfriend/teammate started to affect team chemistry; there’s little that will rile teammates more than messing up team chemistry. It was because of the breakup and the ensuing problems that he found his way to Purdue.
“Swimming is definitely one of the sports that is more accepting of gay athletes,” Langenfeld says. “It might be because of the close relationship we all have. I mean, we’re all running around in small bathing suits, so we’re all very close, there’s a very intimate level between us. So when our friends or teammates comes out, you don’t look at the sexuality factor.”
Langenfeld, about to enter his senior year at Purdue, says he knows at least three other gay men who will be competing at the Trials next week. He also says that he knows of many more gay collegiate athletes, some of them at his school. It’s the growing number of gay athletes he’s met that has led him to create an organization called Our Group, a group for gay intercollegiate athletes and allies run by those same athletes. Right now, they are focused on their Facebook page and driving interest with that. But behind the scenes, they are filing for 501c3 status, building a Web site, and planning for an eventual convention or summit.
His hope, along with others he's working with, is to develop a resource that gay athletes in high school and college can use to shape their own stories and find their own paths. He's already working with John Amaechi, Pat Griffin, Ted Rybka at GLAAD, and Outsports. Right now though, he's taking it slow and building the organization from the ground up before, hopefully, taking it global.
For the next two weeks, though, Langenfeld is focused on swimming. It had been a topsy-turvy season including his appendix bursting on Valentine’s Day this past February. It kept him out of the water for a few weeks. When he got back in, he set a school record in the 50-meter freestyle.
Right now, Langenfeld says he’s “single and happy.” He loves hanging out with his friends and swimming. He’s not searching for a relationship right now, but he says he will take it if it comes his way.
He has big aspirations for himself in his senior season, and soon after the Trials or the Olympics themselves (whichever ends his run here), he will be hitting the weight room and the pool and focusing on leaving a lasting impression on Purdue swimming.
If you're a high school or collegiate athlete or recent grad, and you'd like to tell your story on Outsports.com, email us. We'd love to hear from you.