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Finnish Olympic swimmer comes out as gay to protest Russian laws

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Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, right, has come out as gay.
Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, right, has come out as gay.
Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, 24, has come out publicly as gay in reaction to anti-gay laws passed in Russia.

"I wanted to join the discussion in relation to Sochi, since it is a sad fact that the Russian gay law affects negatively Russian young people's lives and infringes human rights in general, Ari-Pekka told the Finnish National TV Channel YLE's "Sports Weekend" show on Sunday.

Liukkonen, who swam at the 2012 London Olympics, said he came out now because the issue was not being widely discussed by the Finnish sports media. He also described the emotional toll of staying closeted.

"In the long run it is tough. I always had to concentrate on thinking what I could say and what to leave unsaid," he said.

Liukkonen was already out to his family and close friends and told his teammates last week. He said that while some of them were surprised, all were supportive and encouraged him to talk about the Russian laws in public.

Liukkonen is probably the biggest Finnish male athlete to come out while still active.

"I want to emphasize that this does not change me as a person in any way, but I'm still the same AP, who wants to swim the 50-meter freestyle free one day and set the world record," he said. "I want to win the Olympic gold medal in world record time."

Hat tip to our good friend Finneye, who provided translation for this story.