Stephanie Rice apologises for homophobic tweet

Triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice has made a public apology for her homophobic remarks on Twitter which resulted in her losing a sponsorship deal with Jaguar.

Rice tweeted "Suck on that f****ts" after Australia beat South Africa in a rugby union match, angering gay rights groups, with former rugby league star Ian Roberts, himself gay, labelling her an "idiot".

A remorseful Rice had to compose herself several times at a press conference in Sydney, where she explained her comments were out of character and not intended to offend.

"I owe it to those who I have offended to publicly say I am sorry," she said.

"I am not a person who judges others or speaks in a way that hurts others.

"It is not me to give offence to other people no matter who they are.

"My comments were thoughtless and careless and I've learned a lot in the last couple of days.

"I've learned I must think before I speak and this has been a very important lesson."

The 22-year-old added: "I felt I've let a lot of people down.

"I just want people to know how sorry I am. I'm here to gain people's trust back and show how out of character it was."

Fellow Australian and Olympic diving champion Matthew Mitcham, who is openly gay, came to Rice's defence, condemning her as thoughtless rather than homophobic.

Mitcham tweeted: "I agree, it was offensive and very thoughtless, but being friends with her for two years, I know she is not homophobic.

"She meant no malice and she has apologised for her careless comment posted in the excitement of the moment.

"Hopefully it'll be a wake up call to a lot of people that they can easily offend without meaning to, eg. 'That's so gay'."