Sixteen years after the media first probed him about his perceived sexuality, Australian swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe finally came out as a gay man in an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson on Australia’s Channel Ten last night.
“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,” the 31-year-old retired Olympian said near the beginning of the 90-minute interview. “I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man, and I don’t want people to feel the same way I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.”
Thorpe also told Parkinson that the rumor mill inspired by the media’s incessant badgering is what forced him to stay in the closet for so long. “I felt that the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity,” he told Parkinson, attempting to explain why he openly denied being gay and placed gag orders on interviewers planning to probe. “I didn’t want people to think that I had lied about everything.”
“A part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” Thorpe continued. “I am telling not only Australia, I’m telling the world that I am and I hope this makes it easier for others now.”
Speaking on whether he regretted his decision to wait to come out, Thorpe added: “I’m a little bit ashamed that I didn’t come out earlier, that I didn’t have the strength to do it, I didn’t have the courage to do it, to break that lie.”
The reaction to Thorpe’s revelation was swift and welcoming on Twitter, where International celebrities and Olympians immediately began showing their support. Before the program even reached its halfway point, Thorpe’s name was already trending on Twitter:
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) July 13, 2014
— Johnny Weir (@JohnnyGWeir) July 13, 2014
Much support to @IanThorpe. Another example of how your sexuality has nothing to do with your abilities in sports.
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) July 13, 2014
Whatever your opinion, remember that it's OUR reaction to Ian's news that determines how easy it is for the next gay superstar to come out.
— Matthew Mitcham (@matthew_mitcham) July 13, 2014
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins98) July 12, 2014
— Libby Trickett (@libby_trickett) July 13, 2014
Hats off to @IanThorpe for having the courage of conviction. You're still a true champion.
— Roland Schoeman (@Rolandschoeman) July 13, 2014
@IanThorpe be proud of yourself my friend..You have achieved greatness for your country, your family and friends.. An inspiration!
— Nat Bassingthwaighte (@nataliebassing) July 13, 2014
— Australian Swim Team (@DolphinsAUS) July 13, 2014
Well done @IanThorpe. Just made a lot of young people feel a whole lot less scared about the world and how they fit in it.
— Illy (@illyal) July 13, 2014
So proud of @IanThorpe – to address a situation that really is nobody's business with such dignity & composure makes my heart warm. ?
— Ricki-Lee (@TheRickiLee) July 13, 2014
Good on you @IanThorpe ??? Not always easy to speak your truth and be that brave but you did so, with class, intelligence & integrity XX
— Megan Gale (@MeganKGale) July 13, 2014
At the end of the program, Thorpe concluded the interview by telling Parkinson that he’s looking forward to finding love and starting his new life as an openly gay man. “I’d like my own family [someday],” he said.
Watch Thorpe finally answer the million-dollar question below: