V Magazine + EA7 2022 Calendar: Michael Gunning

Get to know the master athlete who is changing the face of competitive swimming.

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For Michael Gunning, it’s all about representation in all forms. Having gotten his start in swimming from the early age of four, Michael saw a dire need for diversity within the world of competitive swimming. Participating in World Aquatic Championships in the years to come, Michael’s unwavering call to action for representation and visibility in his communities reached its apex after he landed a spot on the hit series ‘The Bi Life’, fueling his motivation to come out as gay on the show—later winning the Pride Award at the Attitude Pride Awards in 2019 for his efforts to raise LGBTQIA+ visibility in sports. As he graces the pages of our new 2022 calendar, V’s Kevin Ponce caught up with the swimmer to chat about his athletic routine, his inspirations, and what he looks forward to in the new year.

Get to know Michael Gunning in an exclusive interview below: 

V Magazine: How did you first get into sports?

Michael Gunning: I had a lot of energy when I was younger, so I was always doing after school clubs and trying new activities, but it was my parents who put me into swimming lessons when I was 4 as they really wanted my brother and I to learn water safety skills from an early age. I didn’t like it at first, as I had a big fear of the water, but slowly started to love challenging myself and proving the people around me wrong when they doubted me.

V: What does a training season look like for you?

MG: Swimming is one of those sports where you swim all year round and get up to 4 weeks off (if you’re lucky) every year. A training week consists of 2 x 2-hour pool sessions, 6 days a week, in addition to 3 x 1-hour gym sessions and 30 minutes of activation before every swim session. The schedule is jam-packed with sports massage and physio sessions, and regular racing around the globe at different competitions. Our major championships normally fall around July/August time, then we can take a small break, and repeat it all over again! It’s a big commitment, but it’s what makes us so different from the average person.

V: When did you realize you wanted to do professional swimming?

MG: During my school years, people always used to say to me ‘black people don’t swim’ but I always wanted to prove everyone wrong and be the representation I didn’t see growing up. When I qualified for my first British Nationals, I qualified in one event (the 200M Butterfly), but the following year I achieved 7 qualifying times and that’s when realized that I was good and the total dedication started. I’m so proud that I’ve managed to smash that stereotypes out of the water by competing in 2 World Championships and breaking 4 Jamaican Records.

V: Who inspires you in swimming?

MG: My teammate Alia Akinson really inspires me because what she’s done for Jamaican swimming and black athletes around the globe has been life-changing. As professional athletes, we all work extremely hard day in, day out, but to have Alia’s podium presence in a white-dominated sport creates an incredible sense of hope with the role model that she is. I hope I can do that for many people to come too.

V: If you didn’t play your sport professionally, what would your occupation be?

MG: I have a First-Class Honours degree in Early Childhood Studies and I’m extremely passionate about helping others, so I think I’d be inspiring a younger generation through the forms of Children’s TV Presenting or in a media circuit. The great thing is that there will be time for opportunities like that after my swimming career, and I’d love to educate people through documentaries.

V: What are 5 training essentials you cannot do without?

MG: My moisturizer is a must after every single training session, as I have eczema. My pride fins and drink bottle get me through every session. I honestly wouldn’t be able to swim without my goggles, and I can only train in briefs because I like to wear as little clothing as possible.

V: What are some thoughts you have or things you tell yourself when you’re at your physical limit? how do you push through?

MG: I always focus on my inhabitation and goal to break down the stereotypes of black swimmers all around the world. The greater purpose of this goal allows me to push deeper and take pride in my hard work. I also really rely on my friends and teammates to help motivate and push me, they are all amazing.

V: What are you looking forward to most in 2022?

MG: I have so many amazing things coming up in 2022! I’ve traveled to some incredible places with swimming but the past few years have been so restricted with COVID. I’m looking forward to training and traveling abroad again without the strict limitations, but I’ve also got some great (top secret) projects coming up so I’m excited to share them with everyone. I’ve also never been to New York, so I’d love to visit at some point!


Click here to purchase your copy of the V Magazine & VMAN + EA7 2022 Calendar today!

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