Now THERE'S a RealJock: Olympic hopeful Josh Dixon comes out

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    May 07, 2012 9:17 PM GMT
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    OutSportsThe United States has never had a publicly out male gymnast participate in the Olympics. Josh Dixon hopes to be the first.

    The Stanford grad took a big step toward that goal at the U.S. Men’s Qualifier on Saturday in Colorado Springs, finishing second overall out of the 72 competitors. He also tied for wins in two events: floor exercise and high bar. It was a game-changing come-back performance for Dixon, who tore his Achilles tendon last spring.

    Now Dixon is talking about his personal life and sexual orientation publicly for the first time. Like charging at the vault, he’s coming at it at full speed...

    “Eat, sleep, train and do homework,” was the extent of Dixon’s life. “Gymnastics was my number one priority, and if something got in the way of that I had to push it aside.”

    The mantra was reflected in his interview with Outsports. When asked about gymnastics, he could rattle of incredibly detailed accounts of his scores and performances. Questions about his personal life were more of a struggle for him to answer.

    The focus on his sport has paid off. In high school he was a four-time member of the USA Junior National team, placing second all-around at the 2006 Visa U.S. Championships. By end of college career he had accomplished most of what he wanted to do in sports. His Stanford team won national championships in 2009 and 2011. In his senior season he placed seventh overall at the NCAA Championships. He is a seven-time All-American.

    All that’s left is an Olympic gold medal. On Stanford’s Web site, Dixon said his ultimate ESPN highlight would be “seeing a U.S. men’s gymnastics team win an Olympic Team Title.” He doesn’t just want to see the highlight; He wants to be part of it.

    Still recovering from his Achilles injury, Dixon moved to the Olympic training center in December 2011, along with five other gymnasts. The training has paid off so far, with his strong finish on Saturday. The next hurdle for Dixon is the Visa Championships, June 7-10 in St. Louis. The top 15 finishers at that meet then go on to the Olympic Trials, June 28-July 1, in his home town of San Jose. From there, six men will be chosen to represent the United States at the London Olympics.

    Even as he gets closer to his Olympic dreams, and his focus narrows more than ever on his training and competition, Dixon is ready to talk about his sexual orientation.

    In his sophomore year at Stanford, one of his best friends on the gymnastics team at the University of Illinois came out to him. Dixon reciprocated the revelation; Instantly, they had a mutual support structure with another gay collegiate athlete.

    When he started exploring his sexuality in his junior year, he quickly learned he wasn’t the only gay male athlete at Stanford, as he was soon dating another varsity athlete. When some members of the gymnastics team noticed Dixon was spending a lot of time with one particular friend, Dixon said they were quite comfortable bringing it up.

    “Who’s this guy you’ve been hanging out with?” One of them asked.

    Josh told them he was dating the other male student.

    “Oh that’s cool,” was the response.

    What was particularly cool to them was Josh’s willingness to share that very personal part of his life with them. Word spread quickly through the gymnastics world. “A lot of guys in the gymnastics community talk,” Dixon said...

    In fact, Dixon said he has not had a single negative response “in any way, shape or form.” If anything, the only homophobia he has encountered has been from within himself. He acknowledges he once felt internal pressure about being a gay man in what some label the “gay sport” of gymnastics. He didn’t want to fall into a stereotype. But he’s come to embrace it, and he says his sexual orientation now makes him stand out more at the elite level. While he stands out, he isn’t the only one. Dixon knows of at least three more still competing in college, and he says he is not the only elite-level American gymnast who is gay...

    The number of out male Olympians, retired or otherwise, is miniscule. Only a handful of Americans have come out publicly after their last Olympics: Most notably Greg Louganis, Johnny Weir and Tom Waddell. Only two American men we know of were ever out publicly at the Olympics: Divers David Pichler and Pattick Jeffrey. Matthew Mitcham and Johan Kenkhuis have been recent openly gay male Olympians, representing Australia and the Netherlands. There has never been a publicly out gymnast in the Olympics, male or female. Ji Wallace, the trampoline gold medalist in 2000, came out after he competed.

    So what are Dixon’s chances of making history as the first out American gymnast at the Olympics? It will depend on how well he and the other gymnasts perform at these next two big meets. If his performance on Saturday was any indication, he’s got a great shot.


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    May 08, 2012 1:31 AM GMT
    What a cool, uplifting news report!

    We've come a long ways when a college jock can openly date another college jock and be accepted by his teammates without hesitation. This guy is worth rooting for on so many fronts, let's hope Josh is on that medals podium in London a few months from now!
  • ohioguy12

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    May 08, 2012 2:07 AM GMT
    Isn't that just stating the obvious?
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    May 12, 2012 2:48 AM GMT
    westsidetony saidWhat a cool, uplifting news report!

    We've come a long ways when a college jock can openly date another college jock and be accepted by his teammates without hesitation. This guy is worth rooting for on so many fronts, let's hope Josh is on that medals podium in London a few months from now!


    Totally agree. This is a really great news story!
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    May 12, 2012 2:50 AM GMT
    Does he have a screen name here?
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    May 12, 2012 2:54 AM GMT
    Great story for sure!
    And best of luck to him.
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    May 12, 2012 3:02 AM GMT
    It's great to read about this! Sadly, his chances of making the US Olympic team are pretty slim because he doesn't fill any voids that the US team needs. It's especially more challenging since the size of the Olympic team in gymnastics has been reduced to 5 members.

    Nevertheless, this is a really positive story. Even if he doesn't make the team for London, I hope he stills around for the next gymnastics cycle.
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    May 12, 2012 3:04 AM GMT
    The Olympics is where all the best non-military super disciplined gay men are at! Imho. icon_smile.gif Love a man who can be strong internally and externally! Win*
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    May 12, 2012 3:10 AM GMT
    Believe it or not, gymnastics has a much bigger gay following than gay participation. I've only come across a handful of gay guys (both out and closeted) in all my years of gymnastics. The number of boys in gymnastics compared to girls in the US is quite minuscule not only because of the perception of gymnastics as "unmanly" for boys, but also because there aren't nearly as many gym clubs that offer boys programs.
  • a303guy

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    May 12, 2012 3:18 AM GMT
    pocketnico saidIt's great to read about this! Sadly, his chances of making the US Olympic team are pretty slim because he doesn't fill any voids that the US team needs. It's especially more challenging since the size of the Olympic team in gymnastics has been reduced to 5 members.

    Nevertheless, this is a really positive story. Even if he doesn't make the team for London, I hope he stills around for the next gymnastics cycle.


    5 members? Is that a global Olympic requirement, or a downsized US decision? I don't know a whole lot about men's gymnastics (other than I love watching it) but a 5 guy team seems both paltry, and dang near impossible to get a position on. (without inevitable political or personality/popularity wrangling)
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    May 12, 2012 3:21 AM GMT
    a303guy said
    pocketnico saidIt's great to read about this! Sadly, his chances of making the US Olympic team are pretty slim because he doesn't fill any voids that the US team needs. It's especially more challenging since the size of the Olympic team in gymnastics has been reduced to 5 members.

    Nevertheless, this is a really positive story. Even if he doesn't make the team for London, I hope he stills around for the next gymnastics cycle.


    5 members? Is that a global Olympic requirement, or a downsized US decision? I don't know a whole lot about men's gymnastics (other than I love watching it) but a 5 guy team seems both paltry, and dang near impossible to get a position on. (without inevitable political or personality/popularity wrangling)


    The size of the Olympic team was reduced from 6 to 5 by ruling of the IOC because each sport is allotted so many athletes at the Olympics. FIG then decided to change the Olympic qualification process for these Olympics, and reducing the team size was one of the changes. It was to allow in individual medalists from the World Championships before the Olympics whose federation didn't previously qualify.
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    May 12, 2012 3:24 AM GMT
    I went to school with him. We walked across the Stanford quad late one night talking about our respective difficulties coming out. I wish him the best and admire his decision to not only come out, but to come out so visibly.
  • a303guy

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    May 12, 2012 3:26 AM GMT
    pocketnico said
    a303guy said
    pocketnico saidIt's great to read about this! Sadly, his chances of making the US Olympic team are pretty slim because he doesn't fill any voids that the US team needs. It's especially more challenging since the size of the Olympic team in gymnastics has been reduced to 5 members.

    Nevertheless, this is a really positive story. Even if he doesn't make the team for London, I hope he stills around for the next gymnastics cycle.


    5 members? Is that a global Olympic requirement, or a downsized US decision? I don't know a whole lot about men's gymnastics (other than I love watching it) but a 5 guy team seems both paltry, and dang near impossible to get a position on. (without inevitable political or personality/popularity wrangling)


    The size of the Olympic team was reduced from 6 to 5 by ruling of the IOC because each sport is allotted so many athletes at the Olympics. FIG then decided to change the Olympic qualification process for these Olympics, and reducing the team size was one of the changes. It was to allow in individual medalists from the World Championships before the Olympics whose federation didn't previously qualify.


    Gotta hand it to yah Nico - you DO know your stuff about the sport. Thanks!
  • a303guy

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    May 12, 2012 3:26 AM GMT
    RedheadedRy saidI went to school with him. We walked across the Stanford quad late one night talking about our respective difficulties coming out. I wish him the best and admire his decision to not only come out, but to come out so visibly.


    Agreed!
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    May 12, 2012 3:30 AM GMT
    a303guy said
    pocketnico said
    a303guy said
    pocketnico saidIt's great to read about this! Sadly, his chances of making the US Olympic team are pretty slim because he doesn't fill any voids that the US team needs. It's especially more challenging since the size of the Olympic team in gymnastics has been reduced to 5 members.

    Nevertheless, this is a really positive story. Even if he doesn't make the team for London, I hope he stills around for the next gymnastics cycle.


    5 members? Is that a global Olympic requirement, or a downsized US decision? I don't know a whole lot about men's gymnastics (other than I love watching it) but a 5 guy team seems both paltry, and dang near impossible to get a position on. (without inevitable political or personality/popularity wrangling)


    The size of the Olympic team was reduced from 6 to 5 by ruling of the IOC because each sport is allotted so many athletes at the Olympics. FIG then decided to change the Olympic qualification process for these Olympics, and reducing the team size was one of the changes. It was to allow in individual medalists from the World Championships before the Olympics whose federation didn't previously qualify.


    Gotta hand it to yah Nico - you DO know your stuff about the sport. Thanks!


    Thanks! It's been tough to keep up on all these changes because Bruno Grandi and his people in FIG obviously hate gymnastics.
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    May 12, 2012 3:33 AM GMT
    but also because there aren't nearly as many gym clubs that offer boys programs. [/quote]

    That's not true at all buddy.....almost every gym has male programs. My sister is a gymnast/coach, my nephew and niece are gymnasts also. And to almost if not all competitions that I have attended, whether instate or outer state or another country there has always been boys representing their gyms. I personally find that misleading.
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    May 12, 2012 3:35 AM GMT
    may11 saidbut also because there aren't nearly as many gym clubs that offer boys programs.


    That's not true at all buddy.....almost every gym has male programs. My sister is a gymnast/coach, my nephew and niece are gymnasts also. And to almost if not all competitions that I have attended, whether instate or outer state or another country there has always been boys representing their gyms. I personally find that misleading.[/quote]

    Very limited programs that get dropped pretty often. I had to change gyms 4 times during the 12 years I was in the sport because my old gyms kept dropping their boys programs. The options become fewer and fewer with the higher levels, especially levels 9, 10, NCAA, and elite. Plus look how many universities have dumped their men's gymnastics teams over the years icon_sad.gif
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    May 12, 2012 3:41 AM GMT
    pocketnico said
    may11 saidbut also because there aren't nearly as many gym clubs that offer boys programs.


    That's not true at all buddy.....almost every gym has male programs. My sister is a gymnast/coach, my nephew and niece are gymnasts also. And to almost if not all competitions that I have attended, whether instate or outer state or another country there has always been boys representing their gyms. I personally find that misleading.


    Very limited programs that get dropped pretty often. I had to change gyms 4 times during the 12 years I was in the sport because my old gyms kept dropping their boys programs. The options become fewer and fewer with the higher levels, especially levels 9, 10, NCAA, and elite. Plus look how many universities have dumped their men's gymnastics teams over the years icon_sad.gif[/quote]

    Well I have never seen that. Just saying what I see every week, and hear on the dinner table every weekend....but you are the expert with 12 years on your belt.
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    May 12, 2012 3:43 AM GMT
    may11 said
    pocketnico said
    may11 saidbut also because there aren't nearly as many gym clubs that offer boys programs.


    That's not true at all buddy.....almost every gym has male programs. My sister is a gymnast/coach, my nephew and niece are gymnasts also. And to almost if not all competitions that I have attended, whether instate or outer state or another country there has always been boys representing their gyms. I personally find that misleading.


    Very limited programs that get dropped pretty often. I had to change gyms 4 times during the 12 years I was in the sport because my old gyms kept dropping their boys programs. The options become fewer and fewer with the higher levels, especially levels 9, 10, NCAA, and elite. Plus look how many universities have dumped their men's gymnastics teams over the years icon_sad.gif


    Well I have never seen that. Just saying what I see every week, and hear on the dinner table every weekend....but you are the expert with 12 years on your belt.[/quote]

    There are a lot of gyms that offer the basic, intermediate, advanced classes to boys. I definitely agree with you there. It's just that boys participation drops sharply by the time they reach the competitive levels, which is usually Level 5. That's where gyms begin to lose it. By that point, most little boys quit and move on to other things.
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    Jun 02, 2012 6:33 AM GMT
    This is so awesome. Just what is the percentage of competing gymnasts who are not out? Higher than other sports?
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    Jun 02, 2012 6:55 AM GMT
    xybender saidThis is so awesome. Just what is the percentage of competing gymnasts who are not out? Higher than other sports?


    This guy is only one of a handful of gay gymnasts at the elite or collegiate level who's publicly come out.

    It's difficult to assess accurately because: 1) There's far more media attention on women's gymnastics than men's gymnastics at all levels, 2) Many are closeted, 3) Others are out but only to their friends/teammates and not to the media.
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    Jun 02, 2012 6:59 AM GMT
    GAMRican saidDoes he have a screen name here?


    I want to know too
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    Jun 03, 2012 9:14 AM GMT
    I just noticed that this guy isn't even on the US national team. He can't try out for the Olympic team if he isn't on the national team. He can't even participate at the US Championships unless he petitions his way in. And the US Championships begin in just 4 days!

    Edit: He's eligible to compete at the US Championships. Forgot about the US Qualifier! He still has to do well enough at nationals to make it to the Olympic trials.

    http://usagym.org/pages/post.html?PostID=10104&prog=h

    Have to be blunt, though, his chances aren't too good. From what I've seen online, his strengths are not what team USA needs. He doesn't fill any voids or weaknesses. He is not strong on pommel horse or rings, which is where the team needs dire help.
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    Jul 01, 2012 5:28 PM GMT
    Well, he did not make the Olympic team, but he certainly did a good job overall this year. He's been a joy to watch.

    Despite missing out on London, I really hope he sticks around for the next Olympic cycle. I sincerely think he could make a splash starting next year.