Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe comes out as 'not straight' in interview

Ian Thorpe won two gold medals in Athens. (Getty Images)
Ian Thorpe won two gold medals in Athens. (Getty Images)

After years of personal struggle and constant questions over his sexuality, former Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe announced in an interview with an Australian television station that he is 'not straight.'

In an interview that was described as emotional and one of the best ever by the interviewer, Sir Michael Parkinson, Thorpe was asked the question once more and his answer this time was different. From The Guardian:

"I've thought about this for a long time. I'm not straight," said the 31-year-old. "And this is only something that very recently, we're talking the past two weeks, I've been comfortable telling the closest people around me, exactly that. I've wanted to [come out] for some time but I couldn't, I didn't feel as though I could. What happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn't want people to question my integrity."

The interview covered much more than Thorpe's sexuality as he also discussed his issues with drug and alcohol use that landed him in rahab at one point, as well as the good times of his career.

Better known as the Thorpedo, Thorpe became a swimming sensation in Australia, where they have a great aquatic tradition, in the lead up to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He delivered in those Games with three gold medals including his in the 400 meter freestyle competition and two in relays. He also picked up two silver medals in Sydney for the home crowd at only 17 years of age.

That success continued into the Athens Olympics four years later when Michael Phelps was bursting onto the swimming scene as well. The most anticipated event was the 200 meter freestyle with Thorpe, Phelps, fellow Aussie Grant Hackett and Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband in the mix; dubbed the Race of the Century. Not only did Thorpe beat the star-studded field for gold, but he finished with an Olympic Record.

Thorpe added another gold in the 400 meter freestyle swim in Athens, a silver in the 4x200 free relay and a bronze in the 100 meter free. When he retired after the Athens Olympics, at 24, he had broken 22 world records to go with the medals, partially helped by the era of suits in swimming.

He did come out of retirement but Thorpe hasn't swam in the Olympics since the Athens Games. Thorpe did compete in the Australian Olympic qualifications in 2012, however he failed to make the team. He has served as an analyst for the BBC including at the 2010 London Games.

As celebrated and successful as his swimming career was, though, his post-swimming days have been anything but easy. He has said in the past that the questions about his sexuality were hurtful and it was a struggle along with the other issues he was dealing with.

One can only hope that now this will help him find a bit more comfort in his life.

The interview with Thorpe aired Sunday in Australian on Network 10.

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