Ian James Thorpe, (born 13 October 1982) won five Olympic gold medals at the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, the most won by any Australian, and with three gold and two silver medals, was the most successful athlete at the 2000 Summer Olympics. His athletic achievements made him one of Australia’s most popular athletes, and he was recognised as the Young Australian of the Year in 2000.
ONE of the most difficult things Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe has ever done was to reveal to the public in 2014 that he was gay.
The swimmer had already told his conservative Christian family about his sexuality and their reaction was to tell him they loved him, which was exactly what he needed to hear.
In a July 2014 televised interview with British talk show host Michael Parkinson Thorpe came out as gay, after years of speculation, denying publically he was a homosexual. At the end of the day, does it really matter?
Talking to Sir Michael Parkinson, the former Olympic swimmer told how it had taken a long time to feel comfortable speaking about his sexuality. “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,” he said.
At the time, the then 31-year-old said while he’d wanted to come out, he didn’t feel he could.
“What happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity,” he said.”
“And you know, a little bit of ego comes into this. I didn’t want people to question that… have I lied about everything?”
“I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man. 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.”
Now Thorpe has revealed to The Daily Telegraph he felt pushed to make the announcement.
“I feel as though people were trying to force me out of the closet when I didn’t even know myself. I really didn’t, or at least I wasn’t sure,” he said.
“I felt like if I’d been given a little bit more time, perhaps I would have comfortable been able to do it… but I was just trying to fit in.”
He added “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 2016 he began dating model Ryan Channing. In December 2017, he has said he doesn’t plan to marry his boyfriend “any time soon”. He would like to become a father.
In the lead up to the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, Thorpe campaigned for a ‘yes’ vote, encouraging people to enroll to vote at the City2Surf. He later appeared in a campaign advertisement with his partner saying that Thorpe could update his electoral details faster than his partner could swim 100 metres.
In 2014, it was confirmed that Thorpe had been admitted to a rehabilitation clinic after neighbours found him dazed near his parents’ Panania home. Thorpe was taken to Bankstown Hospital by police before being admitted to a rehabilitation clinic. In his 2012 autobiography This is Me, Thorpe stated he had considered suicide and had drunk ‘huge quantities’ of alcohol to deal with ‘crippling depression’.
He initially told his sister who suggested he tell their parents together.
“I come from a conservative family and my heart was racing. I had prepared for it and then I blurted it out and they quite simply told me that they would love me and always support me.
“It was overwhelming and I was so pleased I would be accepted by my own family,” Thorpe said.
Once he’d come out to his family, revealing he was gay to Australia was a cinch, he said.
“The way the country responded to me coming out was better than I could have hoped for. I was proud how the majority of people in Australia said ‘that’s great, no big deal’ and the nonchalant response is how it should be.”
Thorpe also said he supported the controversial Safe Schools program which aims to address anti-gay bullying in schools.
Thorpe shared the platform with Mr Obergfell whose book, Love Wins, details the steps towards the gay marriage in the US. The key to breaking the marriage equality impasse in Australia, he said, was for gay people to keep telling stories of their relationships and why marriage was important.
“There needs to be an understanding what Safe Schools is to the community and show people that it’s a non-threatening discussion.” he says, “Where marriage equality right now does not represent our values and the notion of a fair go. We need to change this as soon as possible so we can get on with other things.”