Rugby legend Gareth Thomas does a song and dance for charity | Rugby | sport
Because despite a stellar rugby career – and being one of the most capped Welsh rugby players of all time – he seems a bit hesitant about his latest challenge. Tomorrow, viewers can catch him doing ball gymnastics for Sport Relief at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“I told my manager I would happily put my name on a reserve list for gymnastics. I never thought they would want a 6ft 3in former rugby player, hairy but bald on top , covered in tattoos, wanting to be seen in a leotard running around with a ball or a ribbon. And unfortunately I got the part I didn’t want to get,” he laughs.
It’s Friday and he’s just had his first – and only – practice session for the charity’s All Star Games, where dozens of celebrities will compete in different challenges.
Dame Kelly Holmes and five-time Paralympian Ellie Simmonds OBE will captain the teams which also include former Love Islander Kem Cetinay, Olympic gold medalist Greg Rutherford, comedian Russell Kane and TV presenter Ferne McCann.
So far not so good. Gareth’s German Retriever, Boyo, ate the gym ball he was training with two weeks ago.
“I came down and Boyo was at the bottom of the stairs with the ball in his mouth, deflated. So I didn’t even get a ball,” he said in his warm Welsh accent.
The choice of song for her one-minute routine was also not her preference.
“It’s a song with Michael Buble… It’s called Feeling Good.
“But it’s more a song I want to strip to than dance to,” he jokes. “Because I really don’t know what I’m doing and it’s not really a song I can dance to. But if it was Britney or Madonna, I could.
“So I’ll just have to camp,” he laughs.
Her trainer for the routine told her to just “do a forward roll.” He said: “I know it sounds pathetic but I have lots of old injuries and I’m really stiff, I stay in shape but I don’t stretch. I’m not agile.”
Despite the laughs, at 48, Gareth has broken more barriers than most in a lifetime. He won four rugby caps for Wales and, after coming out as gay in 2009, he became a poster child for anti-discrimination campaigns.
A few years ago, he also became one of the few celebrities to come out with HIV, helping to combat the stigma surrounding living with the disease.
He has been married to Stephen Williams-Thomas since 2016 and admits confinement is the cause.
He says: “As with a lot of couples, it was decisive. But I think we came out the other side and when we did, we came out stronger.”
Ex-wife Jemma Thomas, who wholeheartedly supported her coming out, is still a best friend. “We have separate lives but we will always have this bond.”
Recently, he worked with deodorant brand SURE to help underprivileged children realize that they can achieve anything they care about in life.
So, at around 50, what still remains to be accomplished for Gareth to feel challenged? He pauses: “If I wanted to, I could sit, in my house, with my handsome husband, my dog and my family, and not really do much.
“But I chose not to be that selfish person.
“I want to keep fighting and making sure everyone in the world has the opportunity to be in the position that I’m in right now – to not be discriminated against and to do whatever they want. in life.”
In 2019, Gareth cycled 500 miles for Sport Relief. It was a reminder of why he will always support their fundraisers, as he will tomorrow.
He says: “I think Sports Relief is reaching out to people and tapping into so many unknown communities, and that’s what makes it so amazing.”
After the recent success of the Lionesses, it’s no surprise that Gareth is a big supporter of more girls’ football and rugby.
“You can’t have diversity without inclusion, or vice versa. We need to give women the same opportunities as men and we’ve seen that success through sponsorship saying ‘you know what, we want to be associated with women’s football. ‘ It’s also time taken by the clubs and the coaches, this success has changed everyone.
“It has a huge impact and gives great equality.
“I will never stop campaigning for more equality.”
Sport Relief All Star Games: Birmingham 2022, 7pm tomorrow on BBC One and BBC iPlayer