Amini Fonua: Our Sport Has Thrived Because of the Open Minds that People Have

by SwimSwam 28

May 05th, 2013 News

Amini Fonua was the 2012 Big 12 Champion in the 100 breaststroke, a former team captain at Texas A&M University, and a 2012 Olympian representing Tonga: his father’s homeland. He was Tonga’s flagbearer, and his gold medal in the 50 breaststroke at the 2010 Oceania Swimming Championships was the first international medal ever for a Tongan swimmer. Fonua is currently completing his education at A&M and plans to continue living and working in the United States. As a little perspective on Fonua’s college experience, in the latest marks by ubiquitous college rankings service the Princeton Review, Texas A&M was rated as the #1 “most conservative” university in the United States, and the #7 “unfriendly LGBT” university in the United States, and is also the highest ranked public school on that list.

Fonua was inspired to draft the following editorial after following the different news stories about homosexuality in sports of the last month.

Three weeks ago, UCLA football coach Jim Mora came out to say that any gay players or coaches were welcome in his program, which was a pretty landmark announcement. When NBA player Jason Collins announced that he was gay on Monday, it was headline news nationally. Swimming never felt like a sport that needed such headline-grabbing declarations, because it’s been a while in swimming since anyone was held back on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Three rules that swimmers, swimming clubs, and coaches should live by to promote tolerance are this:

1)      Don’t Judge
2)      Be Open-Minded
3)      Respect Everybody

A conversation with my Team Captain from my freshman year at Texas A&M personify these principles.  Seeing no reason to hide, I was open about who I was even as a freshman.  A Captain took me aside to speak.  He said that if anybody marginalized me because of who I was, he wanted to know about it immediately. Hate is not an Aggie value, and if anything remotely hateful was happening, he promised to end it.  The words didn’t judge me; they showed me open-mindedness, and his assertive approach showed me respect.

Outsports posted a blog ( by Brian Goldthorpe, a former Denison swimmer who got beaten up by three student-athletes.  Any attack based on sexual orientation is unacceptable.  The attack occurred in 2001 and became a defining moment for Goldthorpe, who chose not to report the incident.  Goldthorpe was NOT attacked by his swimming teammates:”three male student-athletes from a different team confronted me.”

Unfortunately people’s attention spans are about as long as our fingernails, and most of the time they’ll only read the headlines: “Gay swimmer”, “bashed”, and “varsity athletes”, which will make anybody deduct that swimming is a tough sport to be gay. In actuality, it’s the exact opposite.

Amini Fonua Alia Atkinson Commonwealth Games

Amini Fonua with fellow Texas A&M breaststroker Alia Atkinson at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

There are many successful gay people in our sport.  Our sport has thrived because of the open minds that people have.  Plenty of swimmers and a handful of coaches are part of the rainbow family. There are National and International coaches and swimmers both among the blue-blooded Americans and the internationals that train in the country. I’m not sure what constitutes “coming out” in swimming when we don’t call ESPN to declare it, but they are well-known to us swimmers.  Our sport has thrived because of the open minds that people have.

Do these facts come to light? No. Why?  Sexual orientation doesn’t dictate personal success.  This runs true in sport and in life.  If you’re good at what you do, everything else is secondary.

It’s safe to say that by and large we have a tolerant sport. I’ve managed to become an Olympian, a Conference Champion, and about to graduate from the most conservative university in America. I was voted by my peers as a Senior Team Captain because I was a leader.  Don’t let anybody stop you from achieving your dreams.

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‘Gig em.


Amini , thanks for sharing your story. You are an asset to your university and family.


Great story, thanks for sharing. Liberty University is more conservative than A&M. Think it’s more a generational divide rather than a political divide. Marriage equality is supported by 80% of American adults under 30. Don’t think 80% of Americans under 30 are Dems/Liberals. The military didn’t dissolve after the repeal of don’t ask/don’t tell and most college and pro athletes will treat their openly gay teammates with respect. Baylor’s hardly liberal, but Britney Griner’s discussion of her sexuality during the WNBA draft wasn’t headline news. Bear Bryant finally integrated his team in 1970 after an integrated USC team slapped the Tide around in Alabama. In an era where everyone has a videocam on their phone, there are very few universities… Read more »


A&M is the most conservative University in the United States? Not even close…

If you were a swimmer on the BYU team and came out, you more than likely would have been kicked off the team and expelled from the university in no time flat.

The folks at A&M are a nice, friendly group and have a live and let live mentality.


The difference is that one so inclined should never have gone to Brigham Young.

That is like Sandra Fluke going out of her way to Georgetown & then launching a public vilification against the institution because it allegedly did not provide contraceptives to an alleged ( never presented & seemingly mute ) friend suffering endometriosis. ( in actuality the script can be written on campus free & purchased for $9 per month

Captain – I suggest there is a quota on martyrs at American universities & it is filling fast .

Now out in the real world …..nobody cares unless you bother people.


Kids at 18 may be still in a battle fighting their urges, especially a kid from a religious family. In many cases a kid from a LDS family is almost expected to go to BYU, it’s what they do.

I knew some guys in college that came out, but usually they were 21, 22 or 23. They battled it for quite a while because of societal pressure. It was not easy for them, trust me.


Oh cry me a river.

If it is not the time or place & you are at – in this case a Mormon institution – wait until you are finished.

It is not really necessary to come out . Plenty of people get through college without proclaiming their sexuality to he world.

2 days ago 7 American soldiers were killed in a Muslim country fighting for a shit hole that
beheads gays – other than baccha bazzi boys – of course.

Feel free to head on over there & wail about coming out at BYU.


What is with the “cry me a river” stuff? I’m a straight male, with no axe to grind with anyone. My comment stems from the author of this article stating that Texas A&M is the most conservative university in the US. I found his comment silly and way off the mark and used BYU as an example of an institution that is much more conservative and narrow minded. During the 2011-2012 basketball season, BYU suspended one of their best players for having sex with his girlfriend. Tell me that happens at a state supported school like A&M….. Personally, I’m tired of constantly hearing about gay athlete issues. I don’t give a d**n. I don’t know what the recently killed soldiers… Read more »

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