Swimmer Mark Foster has revealed one of his early crushes was Sean Connery – although he admitted at the time he felt it was “not right” to be gay.
The 47-year-old Olympic champion, who last week revealed his sexuality after years of keeping it away from the public eye, also said he regrets leaving his coming out until now, but that it was the right time for him.
Foster told Winq magazine: “I wasn’t a tortured soul, going ‘I’m really really gay, and I want to be really really gay.’
“But at the same time I did hide it. So I suppose on some level somewhere I’d obviously learnt that you should have a girlfriend and then you get married, and that’s the right way.”
Foster, who has been named Winq magazine’s Man of the Year, said that he was watching a James Bond film starring Connery when he was around 12 years old when he told his two sisters: “I quite fancy him.”
The retired sportsman said, of their reaction: “They’d always take the piss out of me.
“I always remember being embarrassed by saying it, because it was like, ‘Ooh, you fancy men’, and I was like, ‘It’s not right, is it?’”
He said that his first homosexual experience took place at boarding school with a friend at the age of 13, and that it was their secrecy around it that may have formed a negative association with being gay.
“And that’s the interesting thing; any time that I had an interaction with him was at bedtime, it was always dark,” Foster said.
“It’s not that there was any awkwardness between us; we were mates, we’d play rugby together, we’d play football together, we did normal stuff around the house but it was never talked about.
“It was kept very quiet; we didn’t want anybody else to know.”
Foster said, in regards to a potential backlash from the gay community for not coming out sooner: “From my point of view, with anybody and everybody in life, I think ultimately, is there a right or wrong time?
“I suppose the right time is the time you choose, whether that’s when you’re 15 years of age, or 45 years of age.
“And people struggle with mental health, and maybe part of me was struggling with me and my identity and being happy.
“Now’s the right time for me.”
He said that opportunities arose for him to come out over the years, including during his time on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 and when he was rumoured to be in a relationship with Rebecca Adlington, his fellow commentator during the Rio Olympics last year.
He said he does regret not coming out until now, though, and added: “I can regret everything, I could have regrets about when I first met (his ex-partner) Vince 26 years ago.
“I regret not responding to the Becky Adlington thing, I regret not responding when I was on Strictly Come Dancing, when I had a lot of interest.
“I feel like this weight has been lifted. I do feel it’s been very therapeutic. I feel good about it.”
:: The Men of the Year Issue of Winq magazine is available now.