Australian Daniel Kowalski won his first three Olympic medals in swimming (two bronze for 200m, 400m and a silver for 1500m) at the '96 Atlanta games two weeks after he turned 21. He won his first and only Olympic gold at the Sydney 2000 games for a relay event in which he did not swim in the finals (but medaled nonetheless because he swam in the qualifying rounds) when he was 25. Two years later chronic shoulder problems and a series of unsuccessful surgeries forced him to retire. What followed were "literally years of torment, denial and very, very dark times," not because he had failed to achieve his goal of solo golds but because he was suffocating in the closet. Eight years after retiring, Kowalski finally came out in this April 2010 essay in The Age. He is 37 today. Fellow Aussie Matthew Mitcham was already out at 20 when he won the gold for 10m platform diving with the highest single-dive score in Olympic history at the Beijing games in 2008. Many athletes say the stress of the closet keeps them from performing at their peak. Kowalski, now a coach, was inspired by Welsh rugby superstar Gareth Thomas who came out in December 2009.