Dennis Del Valle of Puerto Rico celebrates after scoring a point against Colombia in the men's volleyball match for the gold medal during the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games (Luis ROBAYO / AFP)

Professional volleyball player Dennis Del Valle has come out as gay.

Del Valle, who was previously part of the Puerto Rico men’s national volleyball team and now plays in Switzerland, opened up  in an interview with Swiss website 24 Heures.

Dennis Del Valle: Young people should have the confidence to come out in sport.

He said: “Now is the time to speak up. There must be lots of young athletes who live in secret, in Switzerland and elsewhere. On my level, I’ve had a successful career being gay.

“I hope they will say to themselves: ‘Why not me?’ Maybe I could change someone’s life. Me speaking out could allow someone to gain confidence, to feel safer, to not stop playing sport for fear of rejection.”

Dennis Del Valle of Puerto Rico celebrates after scoring a point against Colombia in the men’s volleyball match for the gold medal during the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games (Luis ROBAYO / AFP)

Del Valle is believed to be the first member of a major Swiss men’s team in any sport to come out as gay, according to Outsports.

The player said that he regretted not coming out to his teammates earlier.

He explained: “I especially didn’t want to break the chemistry of the team, that it could become weird in the locker room for some, that they imagine things, fixate on my homosexuality, no longer dare to go to shower in my presence, or whatever.

“When I get to the room, I’m there to work. It’s my priority. I’m not here to watch guys or flirt.”

Volleyball player: ‘I did not need the whole world to know I was gay.’

In the wake of the interview, Del Valle thanked those who sent well-wishes. He said: “I wanted to use this platform not to tell the world my story, or who I am. But to try to inspire other people, kids, especially athletes that don’t have anyone to look up to.”

He added: “I didn’t do this for myself, I did not need the whole world to know I was gay.

“I was already happy and proud of who I have become for a couple of years now. To me the important thing was to be able to share my story and be able to inspire other young kids who can or are going through the same situation, so they can have someone to relate to!

“Thank you for all the loving messages of support, respect and appreciation. It means a lot to me right now.”

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