It was after ordering a bottle of hard cider at a bar that Mitch Dalton, now a swimming coach at the Univ. of Texas, realized it was finally time to come out to his colleagues.

When he asked for the drink, one of the people nearby asked him if he was gay. Apparently ordering beer is straight and ordering hard cider is gay.

Truth was, Dalton was gay — this person just didn’t know it yet and was trying to make an “innocent” crack.

That episode sent Dalton on a soul-searching journey that led him to coming out so he never had to hear something like that again. Visibility, he knew even then, can have a powerful effect.

On the latest episode of the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, Dalton talks about life and being gay in and around elite levels of swimming. His career has taken him to now three colleges, the University Games working with athletes from Estonia, and working with USA Swimming’s national junior team.

Not surprising, with all of the travel and moving around, he’s found it hard to make gay friends and find a boyfriend. He’s hoping life in Austin changes some of that.

We also talk about the work being done by him and others inside swimming to make the sport more outwardly welcoming for LGBTQ athletes and coaches. And we speculate on whether some inherent dynamics of the sport have led to swimming and diving being two of the leading sports with publicly out male athletes.

Plus Dalton gives one of the best answers yet to our weekly Lord Of The Rings question, involving an elementary-school play.

You can listen to the conversation with Mitch Dalton 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.

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

You can follow Mitch Dalton on Instagram @daltonmj, or on Twitter @MitchDaltonNJT.

Mitch Dalton’s career has taken him to Princeton, George Washington Univ., USA Swimming and now the Univ. of Texas.
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