Born Feb. 9, 1989 Ari-Pekka Liukkonen is a Finnish Olympic swimmer and the current Finnish record holder in the 50m freestyle. Liukkonen was born in the Finnish town of Pieksämäki, and he currently swims for Esto Cetusta with Coach Marko Malvela. Standing 6’10” Liukkonen is very tall, and he’s sponsored by the sprint-favorite, Arena.
First openly gay elite Finnish male athlete
He used his stance as an elite athlete to bring awareness to social issues that hit close to home. In Feb. 2014 Liukkonen came out as gay in order to protest Russia’s anti-gay legislation and treatment of LGBTI people during the Sochi Olympics. Media declared his out to be gutsy, considering that he was at the top of his swimming game. But he became the first openly gay elite Finnish male sportsperson while still in competition. That same year he was honored as the Sports Role Model of the Year – he was selected by a group of 25 people that represent all levels of sport in Finland. Liukkonen is an avid writer on his blog.
Quick rise to success
Liukkonen competed at the 2010 Short Course European Championships, where he finished in the top eight of both the 50m and 100m freestyles. After his first major international meet, he then raced at the 2012 Long Course European Championships, where he came in fourth in the 50m freestyle in a national record.
First Olympic Games
He qualified for his first Olympic Games in 2012 in the 50m freestyle, but he didn’t advance to the semi-finals.
More recently, Liukkonen competed at the 2014 Long Course European Championships in Berlin – he won a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle, lowering his Finnish national record to below 22 seconds. He’s one of 2015’s fastest 50m freestyle swimmers in the world.
2017 World Championships
In Budapest Liukkonen finished 6th in the 50 meter freestyle in 21.67.
2021 European Championships
After having a career meet in Budapest 4 years earlier at the World Championships, Liukkonen returned to Hungary for the 2021 European Championships to earn gold in the 50 free, dropping a PB 21.61.