On Sunday 4th of August the Royal Dutch Rowing Federation (KNRB) participates, together with TopRow, for the second time with a boat at the Canal Pride in Amsterdam. In the run-up to this event, TopRow will publish a number of articles on this subject, starting with an interview with world record holder in the single scull, Robert Manson (28), who in 2014 openly proclaimed to be gay.
Your coming-out was just before the 2012 Olympic Games in London, in 2014 it was only massively picked up by the media. Was it a deliberate choice to do so?
“Yes, pretty much. I have written a story about my coming out and published it. That was picked up everywhere. Mainly I wanted to share my experiences about how limited and terrifying the thought of coming out felt.
I hoped that people could see the positive aspects of my story and that being gay – and in my case a top athlete at the same time – ultimately does not have to be a problem at all. I hoped that for others in such a situation my story could help. Frankly, I do not think many people have understood it like that, but I’m very glad that some people saw it that way. I have also received some very nice messages. “
Do you think that your coming-out has affected your rowing performance?
“I don’t think it has directly affected my performance. The only thing I can say is that it made me a lot happier outside rowing. I could finally be myself. “
Do you consider homosexuality being sufficiently accepted in the rowing world? And do you think that it is different in rowing than in other sports?
“Homosexuality is absolutely accepted in the rowing world. I have never had a bad experience, so I think that a fair sport like rowing is absolutely ahead. On the other hand, there are other sports that still have quite a way to go. The more people become open about their sexuality the more it is accepted and people feel comfortable to be open about who they are. It is a kind of domino effect. At the same time you must also be careful with this. It is of course a very personal issue and everyone has to decide for themselves if he or she is openly open to being gay or not.”
Do you believe that the World Rowing Federation FISA is doing enough in this area? There is already a Women’s Committee, but should they engage more in activities promoting diversity?
“If I am honest, I think the role of FISA as it is now is sufficient. I do not feel treated differently and that’s exactly how it should be. Ultimately, the athletes determine the culture that prevails and I believe we are creating a beautiful atmosphere in the rowing sport. It’s like one big family.”
What do you think of the initiative of the Royal Dutch Rowing Federation and TopRow to be participating during the Canal Pride?
“It is fantastic that the Dutch Rowing Federation commits to participating during the Pride. I attended the event in 2014 and it was a great combination of fun and showing solidarity to anyone struggling with his or her sexuality. It manifests that you are not judged on who you are.”