After Major Win, Out Jukoka Champ Tim Cavelius Looks Towards Olympics

Friday February 3, 2023
Originally published on February 2, 2023

Jukoka champ Tim Cavelius
Jukoka champ Tim Cavelius   (Source:Instagram)

"Years of hard work, routine and training finally paid off for 26-year-old judoka Timo Cavelius," writes Instinct. "Returning to Stuttgart's German National Judo Championships for the third year in a row, the out athlete was able to pull off the big W against former champion Tim Gramkow. This accomplishment makes Cavelius the first out fighter in the Japanese martial arts discipline to hold the title."

With the win and his success internationally, Cavelius has his sights set on qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, he told Outsports.

In a 2020 interview with the German magazine Spiegel, he said, " A well-known German tabloid actually wanted to do a big story about my sexuality — but because I can't tell a sad or shocking story about my coming out , they dropped the topic."

Asked about his coming out process, Cavelius said: "I think I went through the same emotional process as other gay boys of that age. When I realized at the age of 13 that I was much more interested in other men than in women, I didn't admit it to myself for ages and thought it was just a phase. When I moved to the 'House of Athletes' in Munich at the age of 15 to concentrate on sports, I had the opportunity to meet up with boys for the first time in the big city. From then on, it was actually clear to me that I was gay. I was in my first relationship and started talking about it with friends and family as well. I actually accepted it as a normal part of me back then."

But the 26-year old waited to come out until 2019, telling Spiegel that "(I)n sport, the topic was taboo for me for a long time. Not only because I had repeatedly read horror stories in the media about athletes coming out. In my team we were all pubescent boys who still wanted to prove their masculinity. Judo is also a very physical sport, after all you throw each other around and you're incredibly close in ground combat. I was afraid that the others would no longer take me seriously.

"At some point there were rumors among my teammates that I might be gay. I've never hooked up with girls, and when a boy stayed with me, the others sometimes noticed. I remember this time as extremely hard, because not only did I have the pressure to get my A-levels and do my best in sports, but also this secret that I carried around with me. I noticed my body getting stiffer and stiffer as I worked out and my performance stagnated because I was tense all day."

But he had something of an epiphany when speaking to his sports psychologist with whom he was working on techniques for de-stressing in combat. "When I told her about my gayness, she didn't try to push me in any direction, but made it clear that the choice was entirely mine. And it was true: I could decide for myself how to deal with this matter. The fear of coming out came from me, I had overcome it with friends and family."

He added: "My 'public' coming out with my teammates was more or less a knee-jerk reaction: I simply made a Facebook post in which I cleared up the rumors. 'Yes, I'm gay, but that doesn't change who I am.'

"Of course, I was scared of how my teammates would react. But apart from the classic 'How are you doing?' questions, they were all really cool with it."

But he added that his "sexuality doesn't play a role for me in fights abroad, it's about the sport. I adapt to the rules of the country. I wouldn't hit on a guy on the street in Russia or blow the whistle on my sexuality in Abu Dhabi. But I don't see it as my job to spread a certain message internationally. I wear the federal eagle on my suit and thus represent Germany in sport. My goal is to win the competitions, my opponents then notice for themselves that I'm 'completely normal' ".

He went on to describe his relief at coming out. "I don't want to blame other gay boys for their problems, but I still think a lot of people scare themselves about coming out. The moment I took my destiny into my own hands, nothing could happen to me. My credo is very clear: There is no longer any room for homophobia today, not even in professional sport."

If Cavelius is able to make the Olympics next year, he would be the first openly gay male Olympian in judo that we know of. In Tokyo, the were nine out LGBTQ female judokas, adds Outsports.

Check out Cavelius's IG: