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Tewksbury, Mark (b. 1968)  
 
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For about a year he lived with a gay couple from whom he received an "introduction to gay culture." Through them he met gay men and lesbians in his hometown. He was grateful for their encouragement and support. "I would never be entirely alone again as a gay man in Calgary," he wrote.

Tewksbury went to the 1992 Olympics shouldering Canada's hopes once again. In an exciting final race in the 100-meter backstroke, he improved his personal best time by over 1.2 seconds and edged out his rival Jeff Rouse of the United States by six one-hundredths of a second to win the gold medal, setting a world record in the process.

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He also swam the first leg of the medley relay for Canada's bronze medal-winning team.

Tewksbury's gold medal was a life-transforming event. It was Canada's first gold medal at the Barcelona games and the first Canadian gold in swimming since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which the Communist bloc boycotted. Tewksbury's world record-setting win propelled him to the cover of Time magazine. He was also named Canada's Male Athlete of the year and was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

In the lead-up to the Olympics, Tewksbury had appeared on television as a spokesperson for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, and photos of him, handsome and bare-chested, were on Bugle Boy jeans ads in bus shelters all over the country. His endorsement deals were jeopardized, however, when rumors of his homosexuality began to surface.

In an interview just prior to the Olympics, Tewksbury had attributed his lack of a girlfriend to the time and travel involved in training and claimed to have had a serious relationship as recently as 1989, some five years after his last opposite-sex date.

The following autumn, however, the Ottawa-based magazine Frank, a purveyor of celebrity news--or at least rumor--published an article claiming that Tewksbury had been at a gay bar with Svend Robinson, the first openly gay member of the Canadian parliament. The story was false. When Tewksbury's agents had learned of the magazine's plans, they threatened legal action and were quoted in the article denying that he was gay. The agents had not discussed the question of Tewksbury's sexual orientation with him before making the statement.

Tewksbury was becoming increasingly uncomfortable remaining closeted. In November 1992 he came out to his sister, who had suspected and was very supportive, and his parents, who were shocked and initially distraught. They eventually became more accepting, his mother to a greater degree than his father.

After a brief relationship with another man ended badly, Tewksbury went on a get-away vacation to Australia. Seeing it as a place where he could make a new start, he decided to emigrate and become a citizen.

While there, he attended the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where, in 1995, he completed the political science degree that he had begun at the University of Calgary in 1986. He found a class on sex, power, and politics particularly relevant for him. "It gave me a vocabulary to finally start speaking out with," he said.

An opportunity to return to the Olympic movement as a Canadian representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) brought Tewksbury back to his homeland. In 1996 he began work as a member of the Site Selection Committee for the 2004 games. Experiencing the politics of the higher echelons of the Olympic governing body was disillusioning for Tewksbury and would eventually lead him to resign.

Meanwhile, he began a happy relationship with Benjamin Kiss, a Swiss figure skater who had gone on to a career in acting. The couple met in 1997 in Berlin, where Kiss then made his home. For over three years, the two spent as much time together as they could, sometimes in Germany and sometimes in Canada, but in the end they both realized that they were not going to be able to build a life together.

In 1998 Tewksbury lost a lucrative speaking contract with a financial institution because the company's consultant declared him "too gay." Tewksbury, who had gradually been becoming more open, decided that it was time for him to abandon the closet completely. He planned to come out publicly in a one-man show, Out & About, that would also be a fundraiser for a Toronto AIDS hospice.

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