Keith Frostad was a gay swimmer at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, but virtually no one in the public knew it.
Who did know it? The swimmers. Frostad hadn’t been shy about his sexuality with a number of people in and around swimming, and word traveled fast.
For Frostad, that made for some harrowing experiences.
As first reported by Zachary Draves with Nuts & Bolts Sports, Frostad joins me on the latest episode of the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast and talks about the harassment, attacks, and also some support, he experienced from people in swimming.
“It was a very rough time,” Frostad says, having bottled up the experiences inside him for the last 30 years. “I’m glad I’m getting it out. I’ve kept it secret for way too long. And I know a lot of people could have benefited from this story years ago. And that’s my regret, I didn’t come out sooner with this story.”
His story involves repeated harassment and assault by other men in elite swimming at the time. He shares a story of being ready to start a major race and having a fellow swimmer yell at him, “You’ll never make it, faggot, you’ll never make it.”
Frostad won that race.
When he was training at the University of Texas, the other men made it clear they did not want him in the locker room, so he found another space to change and shower. Frostad also shares experiences of a swimmer attempting to run him over with a car and other forms of abuse.
“Almost on a daily basis I was getting some form of harassment form that team, from the male swimmers,” Frostad says.
For their part, the women at Texas were fantastic supporters, even joining him for a night out at a gay bar.
Once he qualified for Team USA for the Olympics, Frostad says a representative of the United States Olympic Committee made it clear he should not come out publicly in the media.
“He came up to me in Tampa and said, ‘Hey congratulations on making the team. We hear that you’re out and you’re gay. We want to remind you the Olympics — and this is an exact quote — the Olympics is not a political event, it’s a sporting event.”
Frostad was simply gay, not interested in making the Olympics “political.” Still, it was clear that this USOC representative felt talking about being gay was “political.” He was told to “just swim.”
He also shares a heartwarming story of the support he received from the Harvard men’s swimming team as he attempted to make a comeback for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He didn’t get to Atlanta, but he was left with a glimmer of hope with the outward support those athletes showed him.
For more of Keith Frostad’s story, be sure to check out the story at Nuts & Bolts Sports, and listen to him talk about his experiences on the podcast. Sports have certainly changed, and it’s important to hear and remember the stories of where sports were decades ago so we never go back there again.
You can listen to the conversation with Olympian Keith Frostad on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast on Megaphone, Spotify, 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.