Katarina Kowplos selected as a Thrive with Pride Ambassador

Fourteen athletes from 10 different sports including our own Katarina Kowplos are joining together as ambassadors for the inaugural AIS Thrive with Pride Program, which aims to provide safe and inclusive sporting environments for all athletes to thrive.

Two-time Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham says finding his “authentic self” was the catalyst to coming out of retirement and winning Olympic gold. Former Australia Rugby Sevens captain and Olympic gold medallist Sharni Williams says she was once a “human in the dark”, until sport allowed her to find her true self. Three-time Olympic water polo player Rowie Webster says she has never been more motivated “to start the conversations I was too intimidated to start all those years ago.”

These are some of the experiences the ambassadors will be sharing with sporting communities as part of the Thrive with Pride program, which is being launched this year to enhance respectful, educated and inclusive communication in sporting environments. The AIS has also engaged the expertise of LGBTIQ+ and inclusion bodies Pride in Sport and Proud 2 Play.

AIS Acting CEO Matti Clements said the athlete ambassadors, which comprise LGBTIQ+ athletes and allies, were motivated to engage, educate and empower athletes at all levels to provide inclusive sporting environments.

“I want to thank these athlete ambassadors for putting their hands up to be the leaders for this program, because this has the potential to change lives and sporting environments for the better,” Clements said.

“They will be delivering presentations in sporting environments, endeavouring to build trust, foster change, promote inclusion and ensure every athlete across every sport has the opportunity to thrive as themselves.”

Katarina says being able to be her authentic self within shooting in the last year has helped her bond with her teammates in a way she didn’t think possible.

“My name is Katarina (I go by Kata) and I’m a rifle shooter who competed in the 2020 Olympics. I currently label myself as bisexual and asexual however I am still exploring this as I grow as a person.

Throughout my sporting journey I always felt I had to hide myself and fit into what everyone was. Before I began competing I had a male partner and I was concerned that if I was to come out to my new teammates whilst dating him they wouldn’t believe me and I would feel even more ostracized.

It took me being out of a long term relationship to finally feel comfortable sharing my sexuality. Being in the closet in this one facet of my life for those 5 years impacted my mental state particularly when I was away with the team.

Being able to be my authentic self within Shooting over the past 12 months has allowed me to bond with my teammates on another level I didn’t think was possible.

Despite the work others have done there is still stigma and ignorance across all levels of sport and it is everyone’s job to call this out. Starting a conversation about LGBTQIA+ inclusion in sport will increase diversity and allow everyone in sport to reach their full potential.”

Congratulations to Katarina on her ambassadorship for the Thrive With Pride Program.

To find out more about the AIS Thrive With Pride Program, click here.

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