U.S. Soccer's Megan Rapinoe Says Coming Out Before Olympics 'Weight Off My Shoulders'

Megan Rapinoe celebrates with Alex Morgan of the United States after scoring during the Olympic semifinal against Canada. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

The women's soccer star is relaxed, happy and playing well as the U.S. prepares to face Japan for the gold.

On the eve of the U.S. women soccer team's gold medal match against Japan, star Megan Rapinoe talked about how she is glad she came out openly as a lesbian in early July.

"There are not many athletes who are out. And I think it's something that's important. It felt important to me," Rapinoe said. "I guess it seems like a weight off my shoulders, because I've been playing a lot better than I've ever played before. I think I'm just enjoying myself and I'm happy."

Rapinoe has long been out to the people in her life that matter to her -- family, friends and close teammates -- but it wasn't until she told Out magazine she was gay that it became public.

Rapinoe contrasted being openly gay on a woman's team with that of a men's team:

"I think there's a lot of gay women in sports, and it's widely known in the team, they can live a pretty open lifestyle without being open in the media," Rapinoe said. "But I think for men unfortunately it's not the same climate in the locker room. I think the homophobia is maybe a little overestimated. I think that a lot of stars have come out and said that we would accept a gay man in our locker room with no problem, and hopefully it's only matter of time before that happens."

Of the 23 openly gay and lesbian Olympic athletes in London Olympics, 20 are women, many on teams, which proves her point. The three men -- diver Matthew Mitcham and equestrian riders Carl Hester and Edward Gal -- compete individually. Rapinoe is making a difference by raising awareness, speaking out and becoming a role model. She is already a gold medalist in my mind.

We'll have news and features in the build-up to our live coverage of the final in our USA Vs. Japan, London 2012 Olympics StoryStream.

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