Five-time Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe is now shedding some light on why he waited until two years ago to come out publicly as a gay man.
The 33-year-old Australian swimmer said being asked about his sexuality as a teenage swimming sensation and denying then that he was gay resulted in his remaining in the closet.
‘If I had a little bit more time when I was younger, I would have come out. I would have been comfortable with that,’ he said while participating in a panel of gay Australian sports stars at Sydney’s Mardi Gras film festival over the weekend.
‘But because I told that lie, I was trying to suppress that part of me.’
It was in a July 2014 televised interview with British talk show host Michael Parkinson that Thorpe finally felt ready to came out as gay after years of denying his homosexuality publicly.
He told Parkinson: ‘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. I am telling the world that I am gay – and I hope this makes it easier for others now, and even if you’ve held it in for years, it feels easier to get it out.’
In Sydney on Sunday (28 February), Thorpe said it is a ‘beautiful and powerful thing’ to be seen as a role model even if he feels he has a lot to learn.
‘In some ways, there is an expectation that you will be the voice of this group, which none of us can do,’ he said. ‘It’s made up of many voices, and I’m very new to this. I don’t have the experience.’