Lucas Krzikalla has played 192 games and scored 485 goals in the top division of Germany’s team handball Bundesliga. He’s known as a scoring threat who was termed by his team’s head coach as “one of our strongest players, athletically and emotionally.”

Last weekend he made a big play off the court that he termed “one of the most important steps in my life.”

The 28-year-old Krzikalla, a right winger for SC DHfK Leipzig, came out as gay in an interview with the German newspaper Welt Am Sonntag, and was profiled in a short film broadcasted by Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk.

Lucas Krzikalla is opening up about his life as a gay professional athlete.

Krzikalla has played for the club since signing on as a 16-year-old. He was out to his teammates and his family for years but decided that this season was the time for the public and fans to know.

“Today I can say it very clearly here: I’m gay, I have a boyfriend whom I love, and I’m very happy about it,” he said in the Welt Am Sonntag interview.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a year: why not just take that step and say you’re gay? How much longer will the constant deception, the lying, and for whom anyway? There will always be idiots who say stupid things. I want to stand for what I do and not be defined by my sexuality.”

In the interview, Krzikalla noted that what first got him to consider coming out publicly was the support of his team, especially the team’s managing director, Karsten Günther.

“Our manager asked me where Chris and I met. After that we hugged,” Krzikalla recalled. “I was really happy that Chris was so warmly received. Back then, last fall, we decided we would be open as a couple. Then I thought, I can make it official. I just didn’t really know how.”

The reaction within the team was positive. A new autograph card, adorned in Pride rainbow, was issued. Supportive tweets have come from all corners, from legends in the sport, to high officials for LGBTQ affairs within the German government.

SC DHfK Leipzig is all-in with their support, right down to the autograph card for the fans

To Krzikalla, the next step forward is to make a difference in society while also making a difference in the standings for a team that is off to slow start at 1-4-1 in the young season.

“For something to finally change, we professional athletes must now do something ourselves,” he said. “After years of discrimination, if we all have the courage, we now have the chance of actually changing something once and for all.

“Every coming out is a great liberation and not just for yourself, but also for others. That’s what I’m about.”

You can follow Lucas Krzikalla on Instagram.