AXEL Reed and Josh Velasquez, 21, both swim for club teams in California. They had known each other for some time before becoming close.

“Swimmers have a special connection, and that was the reason we clicked,” they said in an Out Sports article.

“There was something else though, another reason why our friendship was different.”

One night, during their first semester at university, Velasquez received a text from Axel that said: I’m gay, Josh. Are you?

Velasquez hesitated before finally responding: Yeah, I am, Axel.

Reed came out a year before Velasquez. In that time Reed had a boyfriend at university, and experienced having a “normal” life with a partner.

Velasquez, still not out at the time, would hook up with another closeted guy. Feeling unable to come out was stressful and made him jealous of Reed.

The two swimmers remained close friends, relying on each other for guidance and advice.

Finally, and with Reed’s support, Velasquez came out to his family.

When Velasquez battled depression, Reed was always the one to get in touch and make sure he was all right.

When Reed was out but lacked confidence, Velasquez would push his “comfort zone” by taking him out with a group of friends.

Now, Velasquez is completing his degree in neuroscience and cognitive behaviour, while Reed is graduating this year with a degree in business administration.

“Today we have never been happier with ourselves,” they said. “We’re finally letting people into our lives and letting them get to know the real Josh and Axel, not the disguise they used to wear.

“We wanted to share our story jointly so that other swimmers or people struggling to come out don’t feel alone.

“Realise that others are experiencing the same thing as you and they made it through it.

“Love yourself and don’t push away the people close to you, because this is the time you want them as close as possible.”

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