Interview : Simon Dunn
Australian rugby player Simon Dunn was the first out gay man to represent the country in bobsledding. He is known for playing for the Sydney Convicts, the city’s gay rugby team. He has his eyes on jumping in the bobsleigh and representing Australia at the Olympics in Korea. Earlier this year readers of Attitude magazine, the UK’s biggest magazine aimed at gay and bisexual men, named him their No1 sexiest man on the planet. We caught up with him to talk his career, training, social media, the importance of role models and more.
How did your career in sport begin?
I played rugby when I was growing up and it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I even thought I could do bobsleigh, that’s when a member of the Aussie team suggested I try out.
Is this something that was encouraged by those around you?
A lot of my friends thought it was a joke when I told them Australia even had a bobsleigh team and I don’t think they thought I’d even make it. I proved them wrong!
How does it make you feel to be regarded by many as a role model?
It’s a little surreal as I’m just doing something I love. But it’s definitely become something thats not just about me but also about the community. If I can be that gay athlete role model I yearned for growing up, it makes all the hard work worth it.
Photo : Some bobsleigh action.
Do you think being a role model brings with it extra responsibilities?
It does. I’m now in the public eye so I need to be aware of that. I would hate to do something that would upset someone who looks up to me.
Did you have any role models growing up?
In the rugby world there was Ian Roberts.
How important do you think it is for children to see a diverse range of people, of all backgrounds and walks of life, in the media?
Extremely important. I think a lot of homophobia stems from being uneducated or by not being exposed to homosexual people. It’s easy to see someone in a negative light when you don’t know anything about them. And unfortunately the stereotypes and opinions of gay men haven’t been favourable in the past.
Is your sport and training well supported so you can give you’re all to keep getting better without the worry of funding?
Bobsleigh in Australia is completely self funded so I have a full time job in order to afford the training and competing. It’s not ideal for competing at my best because I’m always training after working 8-10 hours so I’m exhausted. I want to do the best for my country and to do that I’d need to focus all my time on bobsleigh.
Do you have ambitions to participate in the South Korea Winter Olympics in 2018?
Korea is the ultimate goal. This would make me the first openly gay man to represent their country at the games. But for now I’m just focusing on each season. Korea is a long way off.
The biggest challenge is the costs associated. The closer to the games I get, the more expensive it becomes and the less time I have to work.
Photo : On the rugby pitch.
What’s a typical day in your world like?
My typical day is pretty uneventful. I work at a gym most days. Then there’s training which includes weight training, sprinting, push practice and in the Winter, sliding.
When are you at your happiest?
I’m happiest when I’m with my family. I have one niece and four nephews. I love being an uncle.
What do you enjoy getting up to when you’re not training?
I don’t really get much down-time between training and work. So when I do I’m happy just to chill.
“I think a lot of homophobia stems from being uneducated or by not being exposed to homosexual people.”
How important is social media such as YouTube and Twitter to you?
I think they’re very important. Being an athlete is about creating a brand. It appeals to sponsors, which I’m still waiting on! But it’s also important that people know an out gay athlete exists. You can’t break down stereotypes if no one knows you.
Congratulations on your recent Attitude magazine No1 Sexiest Man In The World. It looks like you had a whirlwind of a week when the list was announced?
It was an amazing week and it’s still all a little surreal. I think it’s more then just about looks, but also because of what I’m doing as an athlete. It’s something I’ll never forget!
I voted for Liam Payne and Tom Daley. It’s one of those things that once you vote you instantly think of so many other people you wish you’d voted for!
What’s next for you?
My season is about to get underway so I’ll spend the next six months training, travelling and competing.
“I would hate to do something that would upset someone who looks up to me.”