I first interview gymnast Josh Dixon back in 2012 not long after he had came out. He was letting the world know that as an openly gay athlete he was training to compete for a spot on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team headed for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. One of the things I remember most about him is his family’s insistence on living a life in balance, a concept that truly describes him.
While he didn’t make the U.S. Olympic team for the London Games, he is back living and training in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, working hard to grab a spot on the team headed this year to Rio. When I called him recently to catch up, as soon as we began the conversation he excused himself, saying he had to go but would call me right back. Once we reconnected, my first question was what had happened on his end.
JD: Just as we started to speak, I was selected to take a required random drug test and had to go immediately. You’re not allowed to take your phone with you but they finally allowed me to use one of their phones to let you know why I wouldn’t be able to call you right back.
Random drug testing is a regular part of the required process for athletes who are competing, done once every three or four months. Usually it’s quick but sometimes they do a longer test requiring a 90 milliliter blood draw and a urine test.
Compete: When we spoke in 2012 you had just come out as gay. And happily, you reported that your experiences with others were very positive. Back then you said you needed to own who you were as a person in order to grow and mature. Are you still happy with your decision to be an openly gay athlete?
JD: Yes, absolutely I’m happy I came out! I realized that as a U. S. national team member I was now a public figure, that I had a responsibility to act as a role model for others. While I would rather just be known as an athlete, I feel an obligation to speak up as a gay man, as a gay athlete to help others who may be struggling with their sexuality.
It’s important for them to hear someone who’s gay say it’s OK to be yourself; you don’t need to apologize for being who you are. And I’m honored that last month HRC Colorado invited me to speak at their 25th Anniversary Mile High Gala where they presented me with their Visibility Award.
C: When will you know whether or not you make the U.S. Olympic team headed to Rio? How is the decision made to ensure the greatest depth of talent in the men’s gymnastics team?
JD: The U.S. Championships are being held June 3-5 in Hartford, Connecticut and the top 15 will go to the U.S. Olympic trials. Those are being held June 23-26 in St. Louis. Of that group there will be five team members and three alternates selected. The five men’s events everyone must be able to perform at a high level are the floor exercise, vault, pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars and the high bar.
There’s lots of depth in the U.S. men’s program and the team has to be well balanced overall. As an Olympian, you have to perform your top three of the five exercises. If I’m chosen, my top three are the floor, the vault and the high bar.
C: How is your health at this point?
JD: After reconstructive surgery on my shoulder before 2015, it took a long time to come back, both physically and mentally. While your body is being rebuilt, you also have to rebuild your confidence and your attitude. But I’m finally at 100 percent.
C: Wonderful! Since you’re in such good shape, if you don’t make the Rio Olympics are you contemplating another try in four more years for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo?
JD: No. I’m continuing training for the World Championships in a year. At age 26 I’m still young enough not to be concerned about my age. But for another four years? No, I don’t anticipate continuing my life at that level of sacrifice.
The total focus and extreme dedication that training for the Olympics requires gets kind of suffocating after awhile. You can get too wrapped up in that world. As a mature adult, I want and need to strike a balance to be my best self. I also know some of that maturity comes with age. I have other aspirations and goals I want to accomplish beyond the Olympics.
C: Like what?
JD: I’ve applied for a JD/MBA (doctor of law and master’s in business administration) dual degree program back on the east coast for perhaps the fall of 2017 when I’m possibly ready to retire. I’m intrigued by politics or some sort of work at the intersection of sports and politics; those seem like they would be a good fit for me.
I’ve also done an outside internship with Jon Denney, the chief development officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee to get a feel for the job. My shoulder injury in 2014 kept me out of training for awhile so it gave me free reign to explore career possibilities.
C: I remember your family’s emphasis on living a balanced life. What else interests you beside gymnastics, the Olympics and your future career?
JD: I love tennis and I also like soccer and baseball. I want to make an impact in sports and in other facets of my life. I’m inspired by what others have done and I want to do that for those coming along behind me. Kind words of support reach further than we realize.
C: What about your personal life – can you even have one right now?
JD: While it’s not the daily routine of “eat, sleep, train and do homework” of my college years, I still need time to train and recover. It has to be a balance that compliments my life goals.
C: Josh, from all of us at Compete Magazine, including our readers, we hope to see you and your teammates on the medal stand in August representing the U.S. in gymnastics!
By Connie Wardman
Photos by Tri Nguyen Photography
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