thorpecommgamesSixteen 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:

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:

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