Gareth Thomas is a former Welsh rugby player. He has represented Wales in both Rugby Union and Rugby League and was the most capped player in the country until he was overtaken in 2011.

He came out as gay in 2009 following a split from his wife and childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2007, becoming the first openly-gay rugby player in Britain.

Thomas, who is affectionately known as ‘Alfie’ due to his ‘resemblance to the alien character in the TV sitcom ‘Alf’, battled with his sexuality for years, telling of how he was driven to the brink of suicide on multiple occasions.

He told the Daily Mail in December 2009: ‘I was like a ticking bomb. I thought I could suppress it, keep it locked away in some dark corner of myself, but I couldn’t.

‘It was who I was, and I just couldn’t ignore it any more. I’d been through every emotion under the sun trying to deal with this.

‘You wake up one morning thinking: “I can handle it. Everything is fine,” and the next morning you don’t want anyone to see your face, because you think that if people look at you, they will know.’

Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas is pictured in October 2010

Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas is pictured in October 2010 

He went on: ‘Sometimes I felt so alone and depressed. I’ve stood on so many cliff edges.

‘I used to go to the cliffs overlooking the beach near our cottage in St Brides Major and just think about jumping off and ending it all.’

The year after he came out he was voted the most influential gay person in the UK and has since worked with multiple LGBT charities among others.

Thomas is the youngest of three sons. His older brothers are Richard and Steven. His father Barry is a retired postal worker, and his mother Yvonne a former hospital secretary.

He began his sporting career with his native Bridgend in 1994, staying there for three years. He made his debut for Wales the following year, representing his country until 2007.

With 100 appearances he was the most capped Welsh Rugby Union player ever until 2011 when the accolade was taken by Stephen Jones.

He played for Wales at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and played in four tournaments altogether

He played for Wales at the 2007 Rugby World Cup and played in four tournaments altogether

The fullback was the second highest try scorer for Wales, behind Shane Williams and captained for his country, and various club squads.

At club level Thomas played for Bridgend, Cardiff RFC, Celtic Warriors, Cardiff Blues and French side Toulouse.

During his time in France he was found guilty of assault in 2005. Two years later he was banned from the game for four weeks on misconduct charges.

While he was still playing in France he suffered a major health scare after a neck injury. He was later rushed to hospital and was suspected to have had a stroke, with fears the impact on his health may have led to his retirement.

After marrying childhood sweetheart Jemma in 2002, the couple struggled with relationship problems.

Thomas said he ‘knew he was gay’ at the age of around 16 or 17, but failed to accept it until years later.

He admitted cheating on her multiple times, insisting he always practiced safe sex when sleeping with men.

Thomas was part of ITV's broadcast team for the World Cup in Japan in 2019

Thomas was part of ITV’s broadcast team for the World Cup in Japan in 2019

The couple were married for five years, during which time Jemma suffered three miscarriages. They split in 2007 with the divorce finalised in 2009.

Thomas carried on playing rugby until 2011 when he suffered a broken arm. After missing two months, he announced he would be retiring from the sport in October that year.

Since he came out in 2009, Thomas has worked with numerous charities, including ChildLine, the Terrance Higgins Trust and Stonewall.

He was an ITV rugby pundit during the 2011, 2015 and 2019 World Cups.

In January 2012 he went into the Celebrity Big Brother House, finishing in the final three.

A year later he appeared on Dancing On Ice, when he was partnered with professional skater Robin Johnstone.

Thomas is pictured taking part in Dancing On Ice in January 2013 alongside his skating partner Robin Johnstone

Thomas is pictured taking part in Dancing On Ice in January 2013 alongside his skating partner Robin Johnstone 

This was around the time a film was due to be made about Thomas’s life. Actor Tom Hardy was due to play Thomas, but the film later fell through.

His autobiography Proud was released in 2015, which gave distressing details about his battle with his sexuality.

In November 2018 he was assaulted in Cardiff city centre in a homophobic attack. He took to social media to share his ordeal and requested South Wales police deal with the 16-year-old suspect by way of restorative justice.

In September 2019 he became the first major British sports star to come out as HIV-positive.

He said he has been living with the virus ‘for years’ and also revealed he is now re-married to a man named Stephen, 56.

His husband does not have HIV and the couple live in Bridgend, South Wales, with Stephen’s 23-year-old daughter Anna.


This article belongs to Daily mail

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