As a report yesterday had revealed, the 31-year-old swimming champion spoke candidly in an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson that aired on Australia’s Channel Ten earlier today (July 13).
“I’m not straight. And this is only something that very recently, we’re talking in the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that,” Thorpe told Parkinson.
The Sydney-born athlete has been asked about his sexuality ever since he became a World Champion swimmer in the late ’90s – and has always insisted he is straight. Explaining why it has taken him until now to come out, Thorpe said he had wanted to be open for some time, but “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,” he explained. “And, you know, a little bit of ego comes into this. I didn’t want people to question that… have I lied about everything?”
Thorpe went on to say that he hopes his decision to come out will have a positive effect on young people struggling to get to grips with their sexuality, adding:
“I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. And I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.I was concerned about the reaction from my family, my friends. I’m pleased to say that in telling them, and especially my parents, they told me that they love me and they support me. And for young people out there, know that that’s usually what the answer is.”
Thorpe also spoke extensively about his battle with depression during the interview, and admitted that he has found it difficult to share his problems with others because many people presumed he must be “living what is, you know, a dream life for an Australian”.
Thorpe enjoyed massive success during his career as an swimmer, breaking 22 world records, winning five Olympic gold medals and earning himself the nickname “the Thorpedo”. After retiring in 2007, he attempt at a comeback in 2011, but failed to make the Australian team for the London 2012 Olympics.
He is now pursuing a career as a sports commentator.
Earlier this year, Finnish Olympic swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen came out as gay, saying he wanted to “start a broader discussion” ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Read more here.