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Olympic Rugby Player Nicole Heavirland Comes Out as Gay

Nicole Heavirland
Screen Shot via Montana Sports

"Just over the past year, I've come to terms with who I am," she wrote on Instagram. "I no longer fear what people will think of me when I say I like women."

Nicole Heavirland, a member of the U.S. rugby team that competed in this year's Olympics in Tokyo, has come out as gay.

Heavirland came out in an Instagram post Monday. The athlete, who grew up in a small town in Montana "where everybody seemed straight," as she wrote, noted that her journey began in 2009 when she realized she had a crush on her best friend in high school. But the feelings created an internal struggle in her, "so I chose to push my feelings away and lie to not only myself but to my friends and family," she said. "It wasn't until my first year of college in 2014 that I started to express who I really was to my friends and family. When I visited home, I found myself still suppressing who I really was just to meet what seemed normal in a small town. I feared how it would affect my friends, status, and future."

"Just over the past year, I've come to terms with who I am," she continued. "I no longer fear what people will think of me when I say I like women. Coming out is different for everyone, everyone's timeline is unique to them. You couldn't have forced me to feel at ease, confidence, or proud any sooner."

Most of the comments on her post were positive. "Proud of you Nicole!" one commenter wrote. "I'm honored to know you and have always loved bragging that I am friends with Nicole Heavirland."

Heavirland also appeared Monday on the Five Rings to Rule Them All podcast, where she expressed a wish to have seen her name on Outsports' list of out Olympians. "That article came out, and I was scrolling all the way to the rugby section and I was hoping I was on this list," she said. "That would be easy. I'm hoping it's just right here, Nicole Heavirland. When I saw it wasn't there, I was like, dang it. But that would have been the easier route."

Heavirland, from Whitefish, Mont., began playing rugby at age 15. She attended college at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where she initially played basketball but soon switched to rugby, becoming one of the academy's all-Americans in 2016. She was a reserve on the U.S. team at the Olympics in 2016 but didn't end up playing. In this year's Olympics, she was a starting player, and her team finished sixth.

She has also participated in other competitions, including the Rugby World Cup Sevens. Team USA is currently ranked fourth in that competition and has qualified for the final round in South Africa in September.

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