Brave Australian Olympic Games champion Ian Thorpe tells: I’m gay
AFTER years of personal struggle, Olympic hero Ian Thorpe has bravely revealed he is gay.
The 31-year-old confirms his sexuality for the first time Sunday in an exclusive interview on Channel 10, telling all to veteran British interviewer Sir Michael Parkinson.
It’s understood the interview, which Parkinson has described as one of the best he has ever conducted, includes a full admission from Thorpe that he is gay despite having dated women in the past.
In the emotional sit-down shot last month, Thorpe also details the years of depression he has battled while denying his sexuality from the world. Part of that concealment included his own autobiography This Is Me, published in 2012, in which Thorpe wrote that he found questions about his sexuality hurtful.
Friends close to Thorpe said his family has played a much bigger role in his life recently. Picture: Tom Jenkins
Sir Michael Parkinson interviews Australian Olympic champion Ian Thorpe on Channel 10 on Sunday night.
It followed more than a decade of denials — the first of which came just as his career skyrocketed at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, when he was just 15.
“The thing that I find hurtful about it is that people are questioning my integrity and what I say. That’s the only part I find hurtful, that this is something I would be embarrassed about and that I would hide,” Thorpe wrote in his book.
In 2011, Thorpe told London’s The Sunday Times newspaper of his frustrations.
Ian Thorpe, with parents Margaret and Ken, shows off the gold medal he won in men's 4x200 relay final at the World Championships in Perth in 1998.
“I don’t think anybody has a right to write about (my private life), but I don’t care enough about it to be bothered. If you try and fight it, you’re damned; if you don’t, you’re damned.”
Channel 10’s news and current affairs boss Peter Meakin last night refused to confirm Thorpe’s stunning revelation regarding his sexuality, saying only that the interview was “terrific”.
Parkinson said he thought the interview was “one of the best” he had ever done.
“I think his sexuality is no one’s business but his own. But I think it’s one of the best interviews I have ever done in terms of (Thorpe) talking about depression and things like that,” he said.
Relaxed: Michael Parkinson and swimmer Ian Thorpe at Wimbledon earlier this month.
Gold medal-winning diver Matthew Mitcham, who also has revealed he is gay, said last night he hoped Australians supported Thorpe. “I can totally understand how difficult this whole process has been for him,” Mitcham said.
“I really hope this process gives him some peace and that the media and the public give him the same respect and the same overwhelming support I received in 2008. The Australian public and media have a really wonderful opportunity to set an example for kids who are in Ian’s position.”
It’s not known exactly what has sparked the change of heart from the former swimmer, however.
Ian Thorpe wins the 200m freestyle gold medal at the Athens Olympic Games.
Thorpe has recently emerged from a lengthy stay in a rehabilitation facility, having endured very public battles with drugs and alcohol.
The $500,000 deal, brokered by Parkinson’s and Thorpe’s joint manager James Erskine, gives Thorpe $400,000, which also covers his commentary for the Commonwealth Games, and $100,000 to Parkinson, which includes production costs for the tell-all.
Friends close to Thorpe have noted that in the past months his family has played a much bigger part in his life, following several years of him living in the United Arab Emirates. Returning home to Sydney towards the end of last year, Thorpe has been increasingly supported by his parents Margaret and Ken, who have been active in their son’s recovery.
Champion! Ian Thorpe celebrates 200m freestyle gold in Athens
The Comeback: Ian Thorpe at the Pan Pacific Hotel in November 2011.
Earlier this year his father spoke of his son’s battles, revealing in February Thorpe was “having a tough time”. “But hopefully in six months time he will be out the other side”.
His sister Christina — with whom he is famously close — has also been a source of strength and acceptance. Thorpe is among a growing list of international athletes who have come out publicly, including UK Olympic diver Tom Daley, NBA player Jason Collins and NFL star Michael Sam.
Michael Sam: The 24-year-old became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in America’s National Football League earlier this year. If he plays in the league for the St. Louis Rams he will also become the first active NFL player to have publicly come out. His emotional reaction to being drafted, during which he kissed his boyfriend, caused controversy in the US.
Tom Daley: The British world champion platform diver released a YouTube video in December last year announcing that he had been in a relationship with a man since early that year. The 20-year-old Olympic medallist said: “I still fancy girls, but at the moment I’ve never been happier.” He has since enjoyed a role in a celebrity TV diving show.
Jason Collins: The NBA player became the first publicly gay athlete to play in any of the four major North American pro sports leagues in February this year. The 35-year-old publicly came out as gay after the 2012-2013 NBA season but didn’t play again until being signed by the Brooklyn Nets. In April, Collins featured on the cover of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Matthew Mitcham: The 26-year-old Olympic diving gold medallist publicly came out as gay in 2008 during a media profile of Games hopefuls. Mitcham has said: “I don’t see sexuality as influencing my beliefs or opinions or perceptions of anybody, whether they’re gay, straight, bi, trans, experimental, I don’t care. I see it as a very uninfluential factor in people.”
Ian Roberts: In 1995, the rugby league hardman became the first high-profile Australian sports star and first rugby player in the world to come out to the public as gay. The 48-year-old, who played for NSW and Australia, publicly criticised swimming star Stephanie Rice in 2010 for calling the South African rugby union team “faggots” on Twitter.
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