The AFP writes that, “Open water swimming star Rachele Bruni was hailed Wednesday as the first Italian athlete to publicly [come out].
Bruni, who won silver in the 10km swim in Rio on Monday, dedicated her medal to her family, her coach and her girlfriend, Diletta Faina.
Italian media and LGBT equality groups hailed Bruni’s move as a landmark moment for a country which has been slower to recognize same-sex relationships than other Western states.
La Reppublica reported that Bruni was the first Italian sportsman or woman to acknowledge her sexual orientation, although it is possible other sports figures may have come out to friends and family without attracting media coverage.
Bruni, 25, said her statement had not been planned.
“I’ve always lived my sexuality naturally, without any anxiety,” she told La Reppublica.
“There was never any need for me to come out. My friends, my relatives, my swimming teammates, everyone knew. There was no need to put up posters.”
Gabriele Piazzoni, the leader of Italy’s biggest LGBT equality group, Arcigay, said Bruni’s message to her girlfriend had “incredible force.”
“In sporting and media terms it is very, very important,” he said. “We are beginning to see the fruits of years of battle…”
Piazzoni said he hoped Bruni’s example would help break down taboos in the country’s biggest sport, football [soccer].
“It is not credible that there are no gay Italian footballers. The next objective has to be to break down the wall of fear in football, which millions of kids play in what should be an inclusive environment.”