Swimming champion Daniel Kowalski reveals the dark phone calls that forced him to come out as gay – and the moment he considered taking his own life despite Olympic glory
- Daniel Kowalksi kept sexuality hidden until threatened by media outlets in 2010
- The silver medalist at the Atlanta Games in the 1500m also ‘felt like a failure’
- He also battled bulimia and thought about taking his own life at one stage
Olympic swimming champion Daniel Kowalski has revealed a number of media publications threatened to ‘out’ him before he publicly confirmed he was gay.
Kowalski, who initially confided his sexuality to family and friends in 2005, wanted to address the growing rumour on his own terms.
‘It wasn’t until about 2010 that I started receiving calls from a number of publications saying they were going to ‘out’ me,’ he said.
‘I really felt as though a part of me was being taken away from me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.’
Olympic swimming champion Daniel Kowalski has revealed a number of media publications threatened to ‘out’ him before he publicly confirmed he was gay in 2010
Australian swimmers Ian Thorpe (middle), Michael Klim (pictured left) and Daniel Kowalski were legends in the pool in their heyday
Kowalski also stated he felt his silver medal behind Kieren Perkins in the 1500m at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 left him feeling like a failure.
‘Going into the last day and the 1500m final – the one event that I really wanted to win – I was in lane four and Kieren (Perkins) was in lane eight and I was absolutely petrified,’ Kowalski told Yahoo Sport Australia.
‘I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be that nine-year-old kid in my lounge room watching because that’s when it was fun and innocent.
‘I was beyond scared….’To come away with a silver medal was a massive failure and massive disappointment.’
Despite becoming the first man almost 100 years to win medals in the 200m, 400m and 1500m freestyle events at one Olympics, Kowalski still felt second rate.
He said he ‘felt his time had passed’ and after moving from Melbourne to base himself at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra in the late 1990s, he thought about taking his own life.
At the time he also battled an eating disorder and masked his mental health struggles.
A couple of years later at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Kowalski finally snared his coveted gold medal – in the 4x200m relay, where he swum in the heats alongside Grant Hackett, Bill Kirby and Todd Pearson.
These days, Kowalski is now the Olympian Services Manager for the Australian Olympic Committee, helping athletes transition to a normal life after retirement.
Losing to fellow Australian Kieren Perkins in the 1500m final at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 left Daniel Kowalski feeling second rate
Ian Thorpe, Matthew Dunn, Michael Klim and Daniel Kowalski (right) after winning gold in the 4x200m relay at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur