Australian swimming champion Ian Thorpe, a 5-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the coutnry's most celebrated Olympians, has revealed he is gay following years of media speculation about his sexuality and after previously stating in his autobiography that he was "attracted to women."
The 31-year-old, whose nickname is The Thorpedo, made his comments in a sit-down with veteran UK talk show host Michael Parkinson (pictured with him, below) in an interview that is airing on Australia's Network Ten channel on Sunday, July 13.
"You've always said that you're not gay. You've always said that your sexual experiences have been with women. Is all of that true?" Parkinson asked, as seen in a video posted by News.com.au.
"Well, that's true, but, um, you know, I've thought about this for a long time," Thorpe replied. "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, who is retired from professional swimming, discusses the speculation about his sexuality in at least three pages in his 2012 autobiography, This Is Me.
Thorpe says in his book that he was first asked about the issue by a journalist when he was 16 and that he questioned the relevance of the query with regard to his athletic career.
"I answered anyway. No," he said.
"For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight," Thorpe wrote. "I'm attracted to women, I love children and aspire to have a family one day."
He also added, "I'm not so naïve to say that I can't see the aesthetics in a good-looking man. I think we can all appreciate beautiful women and beautiful men. I guess that makes me 99 percent straight."
In his recent interview with Parkinson, Thorpe said he had wanted to come out for a while but did not feel comfortable, adding that "a part of me didn't know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay," according to News.com.au.
"What happened was, I felt that the lie had become so big that I didn't want people to question my integrity and a little bit of ego comes into this," he said. "I didn't want people to think that I had lied about everything."
He said his friends and family have been supportive of his decision to come out.
"I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man," he said. "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."
"A part of me didn't know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay. I am telling not only Australia—I'm telling the world that I am and I hope this makes it easier for others now."
On Sunday, Thorpe thanked his fans for their support, in a tweet.
To Everyone who has sent a message of support I sincerely Thank you!? Ian Thorpe (@IanThorpe) July 13, 2014
He also received praise from Latin pop star Ricky Martin, a father of twins who declared in 2010 that he is gay, and Nets center Jason Collins, who came out publicly in 2013, becoming the first openly gay NBA player.