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Gay Rugby Player, Bobsledder Simon Dunn Dies at 35

Gay Rugby Player, Bobsledder Simon Dunn Dies at 35

Two images of Simon Dunn. One in a bathing suit at the beach, the other in a rainbow sports scarf.

The body of the country’s first gay bobsledder was found Saturday in his Sydney apartment.

Simon Dunn, the out Australian professional rugby player and bobsledder, has died. His body was found Saturday in his Sydney apartment by police called to the scene. He was 35.

Dunn made history when he earned a spot on the Australian bobsledding team, the first out gay man in the sport. He also played for the Sydney Convicts, the professional rugby team made up entirely of gay players.

“About 10 am on Saturday, January 21, 2023, police were called to a unit on Crown Street, Surry Hills, after reports the body of a man had been found inside,” New South Wales Police said in a statement. “The body is believed to be that of the 35-year-old occupant. Officers from Surry Hills Police Area Command have commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding his death, which is not being treated as suspicious.”

The news of Dunn’s passing devastated the local community.

“We are devastated by the loss of Simon to our club and community, and share our deepest condolences with Simon’s family, friends, and those who Simon brought love to over the years,” the Sydney Convicts said in a statement.

“You will be deeply missed and there is a hold today in many hearts that will take a long time to begin to heal,” out Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe posted to social media.

Dunn had been an avid rugby player when he was younger but stepped away from playing in large part due to the homophobia in the sport. He cited an episode where a straight player on his high school team questioned whether a gay person should be in a scrum. While his coach called out the player and made sure to affirm Dunn’s presence on the team, the incident left a mark on the teen.

“Having your own teammates not wanting you on the field was tough and was part of the reason why I quit the game, actually all sport, for a considerable amount of time,” he told ESPN in 2016.

Dunn left sports and the country for a period, but eventually returned to Australia and tried out for the all-gay Sydney Convicts rugby team. It was a move he told ESPN that changed his life.

“You learn to believe a gay person doesn't have a place in the sporting field,” he said. “To ‘unconvince’ yourself of that takes a long time. But when I decided to play with them, my life changed, and it was great being back doing what I absolutely love.”

Dunn had undergone a series of setbacks in the last year. He had broken up with his boyfriend of five years.

He also suffered a torn bicep that shattered his hopes of a return to bobsledding. The injury left him depressed, and he later posted to social media about his mental health at the time.

Dunn is survived by his mother, sister, nephews, and niece.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. In the U.S., the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at or text START to 678678.

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