May 21, 2015 by Speakers' Spotlight
Mark Tewksbury: “If Not You Then Who?”
Mark Tewksbury is a true icon—recognized for his achievements in sport, public speaking, and humanitarianism. A sought after personality, Mark has spent decades sharing his life experience with audiences around the world. He is a charismatic storyteller whose presentations impart energy, insight, and valuable lessons. For over 15 years, Mark has been using his success as an Olympian to fight against discrimination and defend gay rights in the sporting world. Last month, Mark was a featured athlete on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, with Olympics Canada shining their spotlight on his advocate work in the video above and in the explanation below:
“For me the conflict was really basic, really human, like I want to be accepted,” explains Mark, who won gold at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. “I wanted to do something that is my livelihood and I was afraid if I was simply honest about who I am, all of that would be taken away.”
Despite his fears and social stigma, Tewksbury went public with his sexuality. The Olympic champion credits sharing his story and being true to himself to dropping 1.3 seconds off his personal best. It was a turning point in both his swimming career and life, as he realised that he was one of many athletes and individuals initially held back out of fear of discrimination and humiliation.
Today, the retired swimmer is inspiring others, including fellow athletes, to embrace their true identity and pursue their dreams.
Tewksbury adds: “When you can use your sports stories, it gets through so much more powerfully than just the social change message. I think that sport is a great conversation opener and human-experience opener that sort of puts us eye to eye.”