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Susannah Townsend: Footballer Jakub Jankto coming out can encourage others to 'be themselves'

Getafe midfielder Jakub Jankto, who is on loan at Sparta Prague, became the third active footballer to come out as gay, following Adelaide United defender Josh Cavallo and Blackpool striker Jake Daniels

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In celebration of the LGBT+ history month, Team GB hockey gold medallist, Susannah Townsend opens up about her experiences as a gay athlete.

Olympic gold medallist Susannah Townsend hopes that Czech Republic footballer Jakub Jankto coming out as gay can encourage others within sport to feel comfortable discussing their sexuality.

Jankto, who plays for Sparta Prague on loan from Getafe, shared his story in a post on Twitter on Monday, saying: "I no longer want to hide myself."

The 27-year-old follows in the footsteps of Australian Josh Cavallo - who came out publicly in 2021 - and Jake Daniels of Blackpool, who is the only current British male player to reveal he is gay.

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Blackpool football Jake Daniels became the only openly gay male professional footballer in Britain

Townsend, who won gold with Team GB hockey at Rio 2016, is openly lesbian and spoke to Sky Sports News as part of LGBT+ history month.

"For young people to see that, especially in football, it gives them the confidence and it shows them that they genuinely can be themselves and fantastic at their sport," she said. "It's brilliant.

"So, I'm very hopeful that will start to pave way for lots of other people to reflect on themselves as well."

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Jon Holmes, founder of Sports Media LGBT+, discusses the impact of Jakub Jankto's decision to come out as gay and why it is such a significant moment in football.

Townsend recognised women's sport is still more used to LGBT+ athletes, with her England team-mates Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh are both married, although admits more can still be done to make people feel accepted.

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"With women's sport we're very far ahead in this," she added. "We have role models such as Kate and Helen who pretty much just show how in love they are.

"For us they were just two team-mates who happened to be married, and I think when you have that in front of you every day it makes you feel more comfortable. So when it was my chance to come out it was a very easy process."

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For LGBT+ History Month, Tom Bosworth speaks to British Olympic hockey champions Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh about being trailblazers, being married for a decade, and motherhood.

Although the midfielder has been largely fortunate with her experiences, she has still previously received hurtful comments.

"It's the language that's been used like 'Susannah you look quite gay today'," Townsend explained. "It never made any sense to me and my biggest regret growing up is that I never actually called people up on that.

"I've spoken to team-mates and friends since and have actually said 'when that happens, be an ally'.

"I was more annoyed at myself because I showed youngsters and people in my team that that was acceptable and for me, I have been incredibly lucky but I'm also aware that the majority haven't."

Each February, the United Kingdom celebrates LGBT+ history month, but Townsend wants to see the conversations and change take place more often.

"It's the month of February when we're all talking about it," she added. "But for me it's continuing after February into March. I live by my values and hopefully everyone else follows suit."

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