- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Greg DeStephen dealt with being outed as gay, having hostile teammates and diving with a broken back his freshman year, but none of it stopped him from becoming a four-time All-American diver at Missouri.

He is also the only Missouri athlete to publicly say he is gay while actively competing, the Columbia Missourian (http://bit.ly/1evXQf1 ) reports.

DeStephen qualified for the NCAA Championship meet three of his four years at Missouri. He earned All-Big 12 honors a dozen times from 2007 to 2010. He made the U.S. national team in 2010 for the Canada Cup.

But after his first semester at Missouri, he felt ready to leave. He considered transferring to his hometown Ohio State Buckeyes.

“He would come and talk to me about it,” says Aimee Hukill, a member of the women’s swim team from 2005 to 2009. “He would be like, ‘I need to leave Missouri. I don’t want to be here.’”

Not much more could have gone wrong his first semester. He pleaded guilty to alcohol possession. He broke a bone in his right hand. He got E. coli poisoning. He dove for months with a misdiagnosed fracture in his spine. And he developed mononucleosis.

But the toughest challenge came when a teammate broke his trust and told the rest of the team that he was gay without his permission.

DeStephen went on a date a couple months into his freshman year - his first date with a guy.

He told only three friends in Ohio that he was gay before coming to Columbia. DeStephen felt an attraction to guys, but he thought he may be bisexual. He says he was still “involved” with girls when he made that first same-sex date.

“I was starting to figure out more that I was gay, but I was still also hanging out with girls as well at that point,” he says of his first couple months at Missouri. “I was starting to come to terms with it (being gay).”

But when a teammate revealed DeStephen’s date with a guy, the 5-foot-8 diver’s chance at acceptance that year ended.

None of his teammates said a bad thing to his face, but he heard the things they said. He was told that one teammate said he was “going to hell.” Seven years later, the comment that hurts most was a teammate saying he did not want to change in front of DeStephen.

“It dug in deep,” DeStephen says. “I was there to do a job. I was there to compete and train. I wasn’t there to stare guys down in the locker room. . I was insulted and kind of annoyed.”

As his challenges grew that first semester, DeStephen found a quote online that resonated with him: “Adversity causes some men to break, others to break records.” He typed it out, printed it on a half-sheet of copier paper and taped it in his locker at the Mizzou Aquatic Center. DeStephen read it each day for the rest of that season and throughout subsequent seasons.

“What I was going through at that point, I could draw on those experiences to make me work harder and really have an outlet for how I was feeling,” he says.

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