The triple Olympic swimming 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 faggots" after Australia beat South Africa in a rugby union match, angering gay rights groups, with the 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 had been out of character. "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 learnt I must think before I speak. I've let a lot of people down. I just want people to know how sorry I am."
The Olympic diving champion Matthew Mitcham, who is openly gay, came to Rice's defence, condemning her as thoughtless rather than homophobic. Mitcham said: "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."