Curdin Orlik, a champion in the sport of Swiss “swing” wrestling, has come out as gay, becoming Switzerland’s first openly gay active male pro athlete.

“I am like that,” Orlik told Christof Gertsch of Switzerland’s The Magazine in a deeply reported article. “I can’t help it. That’s how I was born.”

Orlik, 27, said he decided to come out publicly because ”I’d rather be free than fearful.”

“For far too long I have pushed out who I really am,” he said. “I am not someone who kisses in front of people, but I want to lie down with a man and be able to touch him. … I always knew that I was gay, for sure since I was 12. But I thought: this is wrong, it cannot be. I heard things on the school building square [like] ‘you gay pig,’ ‘you faggot.’ Or in soccer, ‘such a gay pass!’ Even when swinging [wrestling]. Sure, nobody really meant that, but if you’re like that yourself, you think, ‘Shit, that’s not a good thing.’ I thought: I don’t want to be gay. But it’s me. Now it’s out.”

Swing wrestling is a sport peculiar to Switzerland and very popular, with its champions becoming household names. It’s a derivative of folk wrestling where the wrestlers wear special clothes that allow for holds and throws and the action takes place in a circle covered in sawdust.

Despite the uniqueness of the sport, Orlik’s coming out will resonate with any LGBTQ athlete, especially gay men — the realization at a young age that you are different, the fear and uncertainty of coming out and the emotional toll the closet takes.

Orlik’s first experiences of meeting other men on apps were terrible. “I felt abused,” he said. “I thought if being gay meant you were so miserable, it wasn’t for me. Getting to know good gays is doubly difficult if you keep your gayness hidden. You are defenseless because fear always resonates that you are exposed. And who should I have talked about bad experiences with? I was alone. It may sound stupid, but I figured I needed a girlfriend again.”

Orlik then fell in love with a woman whom he married and they had a son, now 2. Once he realized he needed to come out, Orlik told his wife and they separated but he still has a great relationship with her and his son.

“The Magazine” worked on the story for more than a year, talking to Orlik and his family and friends until he was finally ready to come out.

Since the story appeared this weekend, Orlik says he has been moved by the support he has received on social media. On Facebook, he wrote: “Wow, I am overwhelmed by the large number of positive reactions that you have sent me through a variety of channels. With your wonderful feedback, I’m now starting a new, open and free period of life.”

Orlik hopes he will become a better wrestler now that his secret is out, another universal feeling for out athletes. “Perhaps it will take me some time until the new situation no longer stresses me, but it frees me.”

You can follow Curdin Orlik on Instagram.