One of Australia’s most decorated athletes – five-time Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe – has bravely come out as being gay.
The swimmer has been plagued with the question since he was very young – at 14, he was catapulted into the public eye as the youngest male ever to represent Australia at the 1998 Perth World Championships – he left a victor, making him the country’s youngest individual male World Champion.
From there, Thorpe – lovingly nicknamed the “Thorpedo” – blazed a trail of victory through his country and the world, resulting in a career that boasts 11 World Championship gold medals, five Olympic gold medals, and 13 individual world records.
Through it all, the question of his sexuality has lingered – and he refused to address it, going as far as to proclaim, “I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight” in his 2013 autobiography This Is Me, which details his struggles with alcohol and depression.
Perhaps those very struggles were a result of feeling he had to hide who he was from the media all those years – at any rate, Thorpe broke his silence Sunday night during an on-camera interview with British broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson on Australia’s Channel Ten.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time. I am not straight,” Thorpe told Parkinson. He explained that he’d felt pressure as a young man being asked about his sexuality, and that it was “inappropriate.”
“It is also not appropriate for that question to be asked of anyone,” he added, explaining that the truth has been a “weight” for him all these years. Considering how young Thorpe was when he entered the public eye, it’s not surprising that he had trouble grappling with media attention over such a person issue.
He admitted that he also feared Australia “didn’t want their champion to be gay.” But now, he’s shed his fear and wants to set an example for young people who might be facing the same pressure. “You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay,” Thorpe said. “I am a little ashamed I didn’t come out earlier. That I didn’t have the strength or courage to do it. I don’t want that struggle to be so hard for others.”
Thorpe has been flooded with well wishes since his revealing interview, and we’d like to add our congratulations to the mix. You’re a brave and inspiring man, Ian – bravo!
To Everyone who has sent a message of support I sincerely Thank you!
— Ian Thorpe (@IanThorpe) July 13, 2014