Dame Kelly Holmes has come out as gay and says she hid it for 34 years.
Speaking during Pride Month, the double gold medalist said she realized she was gay aged 17 after kissing a fellow soldier, and that her family and friends knew since 1997.
The Olympic champion told the Sunday Mirror: “I had to do it now, for me. It was my decision. I’m nervous to say it. I feel like I’m going to explode with excitement.
“Sometimes I cry with relief. By the time it comes out, I’m basically letting go of that fear.”
The 52-year-old also revealed that she had mental health issues because she had to hide her sexuality and had to keep secret several same-sex relationships she had during her time in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, for fear of being assembled courts.
Until 2000 it was illegal for gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve in the British Army, Royal Navy and RAF – and Dame Kelly feared repercussions for breaking this law while in the strengths.
She reached out to an LGBTQ+ military leader in 2020 to ask if she could be disciplined for breaking Army rules and was told she wouldn’t.
She said: “I felt like I could breathe again, one little call could have saved 28 years of heartache.”
Dame Kelly competed in her last major championship in 2004, with a double gold medal performance at the Athens Olympics.
In 2005 – the year she retired from athletics – she was made a Dame by the Queen.
She has since been appointed Honorary Colonel of the Royal Armored Corps Training Regiment.
Dame Kelly started a charity in 2008, set up to help retired athletes leave their sport and to create mentorship programs to inspire young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into sport.
Social media has been flooded with support for the Olympic champion.
She also started making a documentary about her experiences called Being Me, where she talks to LGBTQ+ soldiers about their lives in the military now.