Osian Jones: ‘I want people to know I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community,’ says Welsh hammer thrower

It’s the spring of 2020 and Osian Jones is standing on a piece of plywood in the middle of a Welsh field.

The country is in lockdown and the athlete – who holds the Welsh men’s hammer record – has had to adapt his training schedule after returning home to the family farm.

Under slate-grey skies, the countryside stretching out before him, Jones prepares to send another throw off into the distance.

The only problem is, he’s not there alone.

“I was sharing the field with the cows and the sheep, which was tricky at times,” the Welshman laughs.

“Every time I’d go out, the cows would think I was there to feed them. I’d try to shoo them away, but I had to get my dad, because he’s a farmer and had the knack of being able to disperse them.”

It was all a long way from the usual training sessions for the 28-year-old, who has been to two Commonwealth Games, finishing seventh in the hammer on Australia’s Gold Coast in 2018.

Then again, it’s been an unusual couple of years altogether.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast, Jones is ready to explain why.

‘I want people in the LGBTQ+ community to know I’m also part of it’

It’s been a month since Jones contacted the podcast, offering to talk publicly about his sexuality for the first time, having come out to those close to him last year.

His journey to this point hasn’t been clear-cut – and he has not put a label on his sexuality.

Instead, he feels most comfortable describing himself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve been listening to your podcasts and really appreciated the informal nature of them,” he says.

“I’m generally quite a private person, but I want people in the community to know I’m also part of it – and doing something like this is good for my confidence and being able to move forward.

“You know, I came out last year and I found it a very, very difficult time. I really struggled with it and had to work a lot on it, but feel like I’ve come out the other end of it now.

“And I felt it was really important to contribute in the sense of being visible about it.”

Osian Jones has represented Wales at the past two Commonwealth Games

‘I really wasn’t OK with the idea of ​​not being straight’

For Jones, coming to terms with the fact he was part of the LGBTQ+ community took time and emotional energy.

“I realised I was dealing with a lot of internalized homophobia, and that I really wasn’t OK with the idea of ​​not being straight,” he admits.

“I watched loads of coming out videos on YouTube and listened to a lot of podcasts, and everyone says how amazing it feels after coming out – but I didn’t get that feeling at all.

“In fact, because I didn’t get that, I didn’t talk about it at all.

“You know, I was trying to qualify for the Olympics, and because I really wasn’t being open and honest about how I was feeling I made a bit of a hole for myself.

“I didn’t really want to train. I didn’t really care at that point.”

It took some advice from his coach – who happens to be in a same-sex relationship – to help Jones come to terms with what he was feeling.

“She was the first person I told, and while I was obviously nervous, I knew she was going to be there and supportive for me regardless,” the Welshman says.

“When I came out to her, she said: ‘Square this in your head first and we’ll be fine.’

“I didn’t really understand what she meant by that, but I think she was aware that I had to work it out for myself and make a conscious effort to come to terms with it and be OK with it.

“You know, I think when you come out, people don’t generally ask how you feel about it.

‘It’s ‘how is your family?’ or ‘how are your friends?’ – so when you realise you’re not OK with it, it’s a different thing altogether.”

Welsh hammer thrower Osian Jones
Jones says he doesn’t want to put a label on his sexuality

‘I haven’t had any negative reaction to coming out’

In the middle of last season, Jones took time out to try to deal with what he was feeling.

“I just felt so unsure, so I made a really conscious effort to focus on myself,” he says.

“I spoke to loads of people from the community who were lovely and supportive. My focus became on understanding the culture and gaining as much advice as I could from the people in my life – and I’ve had loads of open and honest conversations with my family and friends, and they’ve been incredible.

“I also realised that I’m very fortunate to be able to say that, because I haven’t had any negative reaction to coming out.

“In some aspects, it felt like the most underwhelming thing I’ve ever done, because I played it up and became so paranoid – and then you say it and instantly feel better because you’ve said it.”

‘I’m just getting on with my life, but it’s lovely to help other people’

Jones was perhaps destined to be a hammer thrower. As a boy, he was inspired to become an athlete after watching the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

So inspired that when he was 12 he earned a ticking off from his dad after making his own ‘hammer’ from some rope and a watering can, and launched it into the family’s satellite dish.

Those years of dedication are set to be put to the test again, with three major events coming up during July and August.

“It’s a busy one for us because we’ve got the Worlds, Europeans and Commonwealth Games,” Jones says.

“The Commonwealth Games are always my priority and I’d love to get on the podium.”

Whatever Jones achieves this year he’ll be doing it for the first time as an out, open member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“To be honest, that’s another reason why I felt compelled to share my story,” he says.

“I still don’t feel like, even now, there are any out athletes really.

“I suppose that, in the throwing events, things are quite masculine and ‘alpha male’, which I’m not, and I think it’s important to be honest and visible – especially because I used so many other people’s experiences to help me.

“I’m really enjoying my training and competing, and looking forward to how this confidence will affect my performance – and personally, I’m really good and happy.

And because I hated every single second of last season, it made me realise what’s really important.

“So I just want to try to enjoy this one – to go out there and throw personal bests and have it be a really good season for me.”

Osian Jones was speaking to Jack Murley on the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast. You can hear new episodes every Wednesday on BBC Sounds.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.