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After a thrilling gold medal performance at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury should have been on top of the world.

He had both the gold and a bronze medal around his neck, he made the cover of Time magazine and he had dozens of lucrative endorsement deals.

But Mr. Tewksbury had never felt so alone.

"I felt like a fraud," he recalled in an interview.

The strapping swimmer with the movie-star looks had a secret. He is gay and very few knew about it, not even his family.

"Keeping up the image of Canada's boy next door, while feeling a lot like the girl next door wasn't very easy," Mr. Tewksbury writes in his new book, Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock.

The book recounts his childhood in the arm-punching world of jocks, through his first kiss, his ensuing effort to keep his sexuality secret and finally, as he puts it, "home sweet homo."

The outspoken athlete, who also won silver at the 1988 Seoul Olympics as well as 13 national titles, is arguably one of the country's highest-profile gay activists.

He has been inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. This year, he's co-president of the first-ever World Outgames, set for Montreal this summer.

But in the years after 1992, Mr. Tewksbury struggled.

"From the outside looking in, it appeared that I was living a dream life," he writes.

In real life, he had told his family of his sexual orientation shortly after the Barcelona Games and it didn't go well. Although his mother is now one of his most ardent supporters, it took time. His first real relationship had fallen apart and he lived in fear of being publicly exposed as a homosexual.

Then, in 1998, Mr. Tewksbury lost a six-figure deal as a motivational speaker for a financial institution because he was "too openly gay."

In December, 1998, he became the first Canadian athlete to voluntarily declare his homosexuality.

"It's one thing to have a gay theatre director," Gilles Marchildon of EGALE Canada said. "It's sort of accepted. "It's quite another to have an openly gay athlete. There are gay athletes and Mark is proof of that. We hear less about them because there is, still, a lower tolerance level in professional sports."

Inside Out, his second book, will be launched at Montreal's Blue Metropolis Literary Festival tomorrow and will be available across the country April 20.