“It’s really important for athletes to be open about their feelings in sport to inspire others,” says Team GB’s Freddie Woodward, who in just over a months’ time will slip into his Speedos for the most important competition of his career to date.
The 21-year-old will be making a splash at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games alongside Tom Daley and the incredibly talented members of Team GB.
Freddie is delighted to have summersaulted his way to his first Olympic Games and hopes to “absorb” as much of the experience as he can.
We caught up with him to have a chat about the upcoming Games, LGBT representation in sport and why Speedos are ESSENTIAL.
Congratulations on qualifying for Rio – what an achievement! What would you say the key to your success is? Thanks! It’s mainly just hard work – you’re never going to be really good at anything unless you put some work in. I wouldn’t claim to be the most naturally talented diver, but I’ve been dedicated to my sport, stuck with it through lot’s of distractions when I was growing up, and have now got my reward in qualifying for Rio.
We’re all big fans of the diving. You can probably guess why, what are your thoughts on the gay fanbase… [Laughs] …I think it probably has something to do with the sportswear required! Wearing a pair of Speedos is actually really important for divers – things need to be held in place properly. You could inflict some serous pain on yourself by squashing or slapping certain things! And of course with the type of training we do, divers often develop a favourable torso, I imagine that goes down quite well.
Are there any secrets behind achieving a body like yours? Not really. The best advice I can give to achieving a good body is work hard on training, eat well and just keep going.
You’ve always been a great ally of the LGBT community, what do you think is the importance of LGBT representation in sport? I think it’s really important for athletes to be open about their feelings in sport to inspire others. At the end of the day we’re all people, we’re all the same. I’m proud of the LGBT diving word in particular, I’m a heterosexual man myself, but there are lots of men in diving I can speak for who are open about their sexual preferences and they’re comfortable to do so. The world of diving isn’t judgmental, it’s a really open and friendly community where people have the freedom to be who they are. With the recent events in Orlando I think it’s really important LGBT representation in sport and further afield continues to prevail.
Many athletes still feel the need to hide their sexuality until after their career has peaked though – What do you think contributes to this? I’m sure the more ‘macho’ side to some sports have been an issue for athletes coming out. In sports like rugby I think a problem gay men face is the fact they’re in a team where there will be lots of banter and expectations to conform with ‘lad’ culture. Whereas in diving you’re all mates, but you’re all doing your own thing.
I think these are fair concerns for athletes to have, but I also think in this day and age we’re in a much stronger place in society – so although I’m not gay myself, I feel I can still say that I’m confident people could come out earlier on in their career and still be able to compete in exactly the same way. Look at Tom Daley – he’s inspired so many people by coming out, and I don’t think it’s had a negative affect on his diving career at all. He feels a lot more comfortable now and there will still be millions of Brits cheering him when he’s competing in Rio in a month’s time for sure!
Talk to us about the Olympic Games, are you excited? Yes, extremely. I’ve had a little bit of trouble sleeping over the past few weeks. It’s my first games so I’m just going to go out there, try to be consistent and absorb as much of the experience as I can.
If you could nab a ticket for another Rio 2016 sport, which event would you choose? Obviously I love watching diving, it’s a great spectators sport, but that’s too easy! I would have to say a day at the athletics, the 100m final especially.
What are you plans for after the Olympics? I’ll definitely have some time off to rest and chill, I haven’t decided how long for yet.
If it wasn’t for diving, what do you think you’d be doing? Academia would have been more of a priority, so I imagine I’d be graduating from university… Hopefully. [Laughs]
What’re your hopes for the future? Definitely more Olympic Games, it would be really cool to make the finals and maybe even snatch a medal! I’d like to travel more, be more successful from a business point-of-view, and maybe own a house.
What’s your worst habbit? Snoring.
What can’t you live without? A car.
What’s your greatest fear? I’m very claustrophobic.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Dancing in the shower.
When are you at your saddest? After a bad training session.
When are you at your happiest? When I’m dancing! [Laughs]
What has been the best moment of your diving career? Qualifying for Rio!
Words Ben Court