It’s not often that an athlete comes out as gay by quoting a king, but that was the case this month when Norwegian handball player Ola Hoftun Lillelien wrote a coming out post on Instagram.

“I say it like the king: Norway is boys who love boys, girls who love girls, and girls and boys who love each other,” Lillelien said, quoting from a speech of acceptance by King Harald V in 2016.

Lillelein came out on April 21, which is 50 years to the day that Norway decriminalized homosexuality, a fact the 22-year-old acknowledged in his post.

“April 21, 2022, it is 50 years since it was decriminalized to love whoever you want in Norway. This post is not posted for me to receive confirmation or recognition, but for me to proudly thank those who before me have fought for my right to love the one I want.

“I hope society today has come so far that boys and girls do not have to feel the fear of not being accepted for who they are. It is not a sensation to be in love and in love with someone, so I hope we have gotten there that it does not turn out to be a big deal.”

Handball is a major sport in Europe, so Lillelein being out has significance (his Instagram post has 9,775 likes and 616 comments). In the days after his coming out post, he said he has been deluged with messages, all of them positive.

Lillelein had a teammate read a draft of the post before sending and was given the thumbs up. The response? “It has our exclusively positive,” he said. “I have not received a single negative comment. I have heard from everyone from parents to other athletes who think this is cool.”

He started coming out to his family, friends and teammates about a year and a half ago, stating his wish for a relationship. He told them “that I most likely do not end up with a sweet girl, but a handsome boy.” We wish him all the best in his search.

You can follow Lillelein on Instagram.