TIME swimming

Australian Swimmer Ian Thorpe Comes Out as Gay

FILE - Olympic Swimmer Ian Thorpe Reveals He Is Gay On An Interview With Michael Parkinson On Australian Television
Olympic Swimmer Ian Thorpe Quinn Rooney—Getty Images

"I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man," he revealed after years of denials

Australian swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe announced he was gay this weekend after years of denials, in a tell-interview that aired in Australia Sunday night.

“I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man,” he told British interviewer Michael Parkinson on Australia’s Channel Ten, the ABC reports. “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.”

Thorpe, whose swimming success earned him the nickname “the Thorpedo,” had earlier denied being gay in his 2012 autobiography. “For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight,” he wrote.

Thorpe now says he had wanted to come out for a long time but “didn’t have the strength,” and was concerned about reactions from friends and family, who were surprised by his news but have been very supportive.

“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 said.

Thorpe said keeping his sexuality a secret contributed to the depression he battled, sometimes by abusing alcohol, since he was a teenager. He said he decided to come out because “the lie had become so big” and he “didn’t want people to question my integrity.”

“A part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” Thorpe said, The Guardian reports. “I am telling not only Australia, I’m telling the world that I am and I hope this makes it easier for others now.”

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