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Kerron Clement was celebrating Nike’s new Gilbert Baker track in L.A. when he took the mic and talked publicly for the first time about being gay.

Two-time Olympic champion Kerron Clement came out publicly today at a Nike event celebrating a new rainbow-inspired track and field at Los Angeles City College.

“I was tired of loving in the dark and being in the dark by myself,” he told Outsports.

He said that he’s coming out now because, in his 30s, he simply cares less what other people think.

“I was hiding that part because of what society thought. But it’s OK to be that way. Nothing is wrong with loving someone of the same gender. Love is love. I have an attraction to men. It’s who I am and it’s what made me become the athlete I am today.”

Clement was part of the gold-medal 4x400-meter team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he also won silver in the 400-meter hurdles. Eight years later he won gold in the 400-meter hurdles in Rio. He’s a four-time world champion between those two events.

Clement also held the world record for the 400-meter indoor sprint, which he set at the 2005 NCAA indoor championships. That record stood until 2018.

He said the teasing and snickering he endured for being attracted to men drove him to the success he has experienced on the track.

“I appreciate the hard times I went through when people made fun of me. It made me stronger. When they said things behind my back. It made me have a tough skin and a backbone, and it made me work hard on the track. And I performed because I had something to prove. That’s what made me become an Olympic champion.”

He hopes he can help other LGBTQ people who feel unsupported in their lives. He thinks the lack of love in some kids’ lives makes them turn to self-harm. He wishes he could help those people — and anyone worried about how other people perceive them — to find the strength to live their own lives as they see fit.

“People should learn how to say ‘fuck what everybody else thinks.’ As I’ve gotten older I started caring less and less, and now in my 30s I thought it’s time to finally be free. Plain and simple.”

The world champ was born in Trinidad & Tobago but now lives in Florida and competes for the United States.

Clement said he doesn’t like to label his attraction and his love, though he does identify currently as gay.

“I love,” he said. “It’s about loving somebody. I could be attracted to a female one day or a guy. I’m more attracted to men. But for me love is love. It doesn’t matter. Though I do identify as a professional gay track and field athlete, and it’s made me become who I am today.”

Whether we will see him in Tokyo at the Summer Games is yet to be seen. He is the defending Olympic champion in the 400-meter hurdles, and in 2017 he won a bronze medal at the World Championships. Outsports is predicting over 100 out LGBTQ Olympians to compete in Tokyo, and Clement would certainly help get to that number.

You can follow Kerron Clement on Instagram @KerronClement.

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