Julian Venonsky has never been in the closet in rowing. Whether it was winning a national title with his Cal Golden Bears, or competing in the World Championships with US Rowing, the gay coxswain has simply been himself, with a boyfriend at his side, throughout his college and elite-level career.

On the latest episode of Five Rings To Rule Them All, Vernonsky talks about his Olympic dreams, as well as the closeness of his rowing teams that has allowed him to be his true self from day one.

“It’s a crucible of really tight-knight relationships,” he says of his Cal crew. “I lived with, I went to school with, I celebrated with, I commiserated with the same people every single day for basically four years straight at Cal. Obviously there are disagreements, but you create this family dynamic of positivity and up-lifting.”

Venonsky says the rowing world is his world, and his rowing friends are his friends — While he’s certainly been to Pride celebrations, he doesn’t have a ton of gay friends. Still, he hopes his story of international success in sports can inspire other LGBTQ people to be out and pursue their dreams.

Venonsky has at least a good shot of fulfilling his Olympic dream next year. The United States will have a boat in the Men’s Eight at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but it’s not certain who will fill that boat. US Rowing will make that decision next year, and Venonsky is one of two coxswains with the best chances of being selected.

At the 2019 World Championships, with Venonsky on the team, the USA finished fifth. In 2017, he won a silver at the World Championships.

You can listen to the conversation with Julian Venonsky on the Megaphone player, or by visiting Spotify for an easy browser player. Five Rings To Rule Them All is also available on Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.

If you’re an LGBTQ person in high school or college sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and pro or Olympic athletes.

And be sure to follow Five Rings To Rule Them All on Twitter.

You can follow Julian Venonsky on Instagram @julianvenonsky.