Ian Thorpe: Olympic legend thanks supporters after tide of praise at announcement

Musicians, politicians and members of the public have given their support to the Australian athlete

A deluge of support has been showered on Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe after the athlete confirmed he is gay.

In an interview with British broadcaster Michael Parkinson screened in Australia, the gold medal winner says that he has dated women in the past but that he is gay.

Scores of celebrities and members of the public have heaped support on the 31-year-old for his bravery.

Some campaigners have said they pine for the day when nobody cares about a public figure’s sexuality, while others said that his move will provide comfort to those battling with their own.

Barry Taylor, President of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association told Ninemsn: “There are a lot of people out there who are distressed at times around their sexuality, but when they have other high-profile people like Ian to look up to they feel okay.”

“For many elite athletes they are told not to come out because it will be a death knell in their career.

“When you're an athlete and you need money and sponsors you make certain decisions. I think the focus of the debate needs to change to why is it that sponsors in the corporate world feel it's undesirable to represent out gay and lesbian athletes?”

Mr Thorpe, who rarely tweets, posted a message of thanks on Twitter this morning:

Reverend Fred Nile, a politician in the Christian Democratic Party in Australia, said in a public tweet directed towards Mr Thorpe: “You are a champion, that is all that matters.”

Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice also tweeted: “Thorpie is and will always be a superstar in my eyes!!!”

Mr Thorpe's disclosure follows years of speculation on the champion’s sexuality, as well as public denials such as the one in his 2012 autobiography This Is Me.

In the revealing interview he said he did not want young people to experience the feelings he had and that he had only very recently become comfortable telling the people closest to him to the truth.

He said that the “lie had become so big that I didn't want people to question my integrity.”

When asked by Parkinson about his sexuality, he said: “I've thought about this for a long time. I'm not straight.”

“And this is only something that very recently - in the past two weeks - I've been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that.

“I don't want young people to feel the same way I did. I've wanted to for some time. I couldn't, I didn't feel as though I could.

“The problem was I was asked at such a young age about my sexuality. I went to an all-boys school, so if you're accused of being gay then the first answer is 'no' and you get ready for a fight.

“Yes, I lied about it. I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man. My parents told me that they love me and that they support me.

“Part of me didn't know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay. But I'm telling the world that I am.”

Veteran interviewer Parkinson said that the interview was one of the best he'd ever done.

“I think his sexuality is no one’s business but his own," said Parkinson.

“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,” he said.

Savage Garden frontman Darren Hayes, Ricky Martin and other sports figures also gave their support.

 

Rodney Croome, National Director of the Australian Marriage Equality campaign group, said: "[It] has clearly been a difficult struggle for him and I hope Australians appreciate the trust and confidence he has placed in us all by revealing he is gay."

"Nothing has changed about Ian Thorpe. He is still a great Olympian and a great Australian. But what needs to change is an unfair law that treats our greatest Olympic champion as a second class citizen."

READ MORE: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
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