MELBOURNE, (Reuters) -. Ian Thorpe, Australia’s most decorated Olympian, revealed he was gay in an emotional television interview yesterday, ending years of speculation about the champion swimmer’s sexuality.
The five-times Olympic gold medallist made the admission to British journalist Michael Parkinson in a pre-recorded interview on Australia’s Channel 10 in which he shared his relief in freeing himself from living “a lie”.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time. I’m not straight,” the 31-year-old said, struggling to hold tears back.
“And this is only something that very recently, we’re talking the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me, exactly that.
“I’ve wanted to (come out) for some time but I couldn’t, I didn’t feel as though I could.
“What happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity.”
One of Australia’s favourite sons, Thorpe had long denied he was gay and wrote in his 2012 autobiography ‘This Is Me’ that he was heterosexual.
“For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight,” Thorpe wrote in the book. “I’m attracted to women, I love children and aspire to have a family one day.”
Smartly dressed in a navy blue coat and sporting a face of stubble, Thorpe said he had long battled to accept his sexuality, and might have come out earlier if he had not been constantly questioned about it from the age of 16.
“The problem was I was asked at such a young age about my sexuality. I went to an all boys school… so if you’re accused of being gay, the first answer is no and you get ready for a fight,” he said.
Being called a “faggot” and other homophobic taunts by members of the public had also not helped.