Saturday, 30 May 2015

John Curry: Skating On Thin Ice

One of the authors in contention to win a prestigious sports book award is angry that John Curry, the Olympic figure skating champion, is largely ignored in the debate about homosexuality in sport, despite having the courage to reveal that he was gay almost 40 years ago.

Two of the titles shortlisted for the Cross British Sports Book Awards next week deal with sportsmen and their struggle with their sexuality.Proud, by Gareth Thomas and Michael Calvin, deals with how the former Wales and British Lions captain tried to hide the truth from his team-mates, but according to Bill Jones, author of Alone: The Triumph and Tragedy of John Curry, sportsmen such as Thomas and, more recently, Tom Daley, have been able to be honest about their sex lives in a far less hostile environment than that faced by Curry.

“Much as I hugely admire Tom Daley and Gareth Thomas for what they have done through social media or the biography, they are not doing anything that John didn’t do and they are taking far fewer risks because we are ready for it, we can deal with it,” Jones says.

“Homosexuality in sport is still a massive issue, but coming out does not engender the same feelings of isolation that it did for John and the support networks are there now. It’s fascinating that nearly four decades on since he sat in front of Fleet Street and told them he was gay, we still kind of think it is remarkable when someone comes out.

“It’s a bit sad for John that in that debate he gets left out. Part of me feels angry on John’s behalf that he’s not given the credit for that act of courage in 1976.”

Jones says that he has given a great deal of thought as to why Curry’s confession soon after his mesmerising performance at the Innsbruck Winter Games did not do more to speed along acceptance of homosexuality in sport.

“Part of the problem was that we didn’t have the language to have that conversation,” Jones says. “Newspapers didn’t know how to write about it or phrase it. The language was new. People didn’t talk about partners. The press found themselves in a position to ask John questions but they didn’t know quite how to ask them.

“It was more comfortable for John’s confession to just go quietly away. It wasn’t much better when he was dying at home in Warwickshire. The discomfort of the papers: they weren’t sure whether to have a go at an Aids sufferer or feel sorry for them.” ...

Ice-skating is the only sport, apart from diving and boxing obvs, the gays are any good at.

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