Olympic medal winner Ji Wallace never saw his sexuality as a big issue. Especially in the lead-up to the Sydney Games. His sole focus in life was trampolining and there wasn’t time to think about anything else.
After winning silver in 2000 he hung up his leotard to focus on other things -“ like himself. Now, five years later, the 27-year-old has decided to come out of retirement and out of the closet.
On Friday Wallace revealed he was gay in Melbourne gay newspaper MCV, making him one of the first Aussie Olympians ever to do so.
He said he hoped his revelation might help other gay people feel comfortable to be themselves.
I’m not exactly announcing to the world that I’m gay. I’ve been out to my family and friends for a very long time, he told Sydney Star Observer.
Having said that, I guess I am really, because from a media and a public perspective nobody was aware of it.
If I can lead the way and help make it easier for other people to get out there and be themselves and be as successful as they want to be at whatever their chosen path is, well, all the more good for it.
The response to his announcement has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.
I’ve had quite a few calls from other athletes saying, -˜Good on you,’ both from straight and gay athletes. Everybody’s been very, very supportive. A couple of the gay ones have said it’s something they’re not quite prepared to do. It’s certainly up to each person.
While he hopes he might have helped pave the way for other gay athletes, he’s not expecting to see every Tom, Dick and Harry coming out of the closet.
Wallace informed Gymnastics Australia and the South Australia Sports Institute -“ where he’s training-“ of his plans to come out and they were supportive of his decision.
He doesn’t currently have a sponsor but believes his openness about his sexuality might make him more attractive to sponsors, as they know there are no hidden agendas or anything that could be leaked out, so they know what they’re getting into.
After retiring in 2000 Wallace tried his hand at aerial skiing before taking up a nine-to-five office job working for Nike Australia in accounts and customer service.
At the beginning of this year he realised it was time to return to the trampoline and he’s now back in the national team.
He has his sights firmly set on the next Olympics in Beijing in 2008. After all, he has some unfinished business to take care of.
I came second in Sydney, and although silver is nice I’m definitely gunning for gold this time.