Oakland Univ. swimmer Ayrton Kasemets will compete for Estonia at the World University Games later this summer. Kasemets has dual citizenship in the United States and Estonia, where his parents were born. He came out publicly as gay on Outsports in 2015.
The World University Games, or Universiade, is a multinational event held every other year. The 2017 installment will take place in Taipei, China, in late August, and is expected to draw athletes from about 150 countries.
For Kasemets, the invitation to compete is an absolute dream. He has aimed for an international competition for the last decade and has achieved his goal while competing with his recovery from a major injury.
“This meet is special for me because I underwent intense shoulder surgery less than a year ago,” Kasemets told Outsports. “Most of my shoulder was reconstructed, so to be preparing for the World University Games less than a year after the surgery is a surreal and humbling experience.”
Estonia, in case you didn’t realize, is a country on the Baltic Sea and a former Soviet republic.
While Kasemets will be representing the nation of Estonia, he feels a particular kinship to the LGBT community that he says has rallied around him and inspired him during his recovery.
“There were so many times during my recovery where I experienced negative self-talk and feelings of worthlessness. If there is one thing that I have learned from meeting other LGBT athletes and reading their stories on OutSports, is that there is always a way to be positive and find a silver lining.
“My shoulder surgery was a minuscule issue compared to some of the pain that my LGBT brothers and sisters have experienced while in the closet or out. From these experiences, we have learned how to take difficult times in our life and defeat them with positive energy and dignity.”