Ian Thorpe is one of the most popular Australian sportsmen and most decorated swimmers ever. Now he is arguably among the most influential openly gay athletes in the world.
According to Amy Harris and Phil Rothfield of The Daily Telegraph, the nine-time Olympic medalist officially announced that he is gay in an Australian television interview with Sir Michael Parkinson of Channel 10, which will air Sunday.
Thorpe has dated women in the past and denied being gay in his 2012 autobiography "This Is Me," per Harris and Rothfield. In the autobiography, Thorpe said he had struggled with alcohol abuse and depression. Earlier this year, Thorpe was admitted to a rehab clinic to receive treatment for depression.
While Parkinson doesn't believe that Thorpe owes an explanation to anyone, he lauded the interview.
"I think his sexuality is no one's business but his own. But I think it's one of the best interviews I have ever done in terms of (Thorpe) talking about depression and things like that," Parkinson said.
"The Thorpedo" has received plenty of support through social media in the wake of his sexual orientation being made public. Among those who have congratulated Thorpe is Jason Collins, who famously became the first openly gay NBA player last year:
Carole Bouchard of L'Equipe lauded Thorpe as well:
Finally Ian ! Hope he'll be at peace now:"Brave Australian Olympic Games champion Ian Thorpe tells: I’m gay" http://t.co/AysuYLJrEA— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) July 12, 2014
Jenna Price of the Canberra Times also acknowledged Thorpe's announcement and expressed hope that it will be easier for other athletes to come out than it was for Thorpe:
Must be the most enormous relief for him. Won't it be great when other young people don't have to wait until 31. http://t.co/mg18soDcvB— Jenna Price (@JennaPrice) July 12, 2014
Thorpe was a breakout star as a teen at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia as he won five medals, including three golds. He added four more medals—including two golds—at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He was arguably the best all-around swimmer in the world from 1998 through 2003, which makes this announcement so significant.
An athlete such as Collins being open shouldn't be downplayed, but he was never more than a role player in the NBA. Thorpe is a superstar who captivated an entire nation as an athlete, so people across the world are undoubtedly taking notice.
While the details behind Thorpe's decision to make the announcement are still murky, things will become much clearer when the interview airs Sunday.
A big weight has to be lifted from Thorpe's shoulders regardless of his previous reluctance and it is refreshing that he is finally free to be himself.
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