Australian Olympic Champion Ian Thorpe Comes Out as Gay in Television Interview

Ian Thorpe, revered as one of the greatest swimmers in history (he’s on anybody’s short list of 5), has revealed that he is gay in an apparent interview with Channel 10 interviewer Sir Michael Parkinson.

While there are many in the swimming community who are openly gay, making such an admission not typically a paradigm-shifting announcement, Thorpe’s is significant for several reasons.

For starters, in Australia, he is one of the country’s greatest sports heroes. Swimming there holds a much higher place in the pecking order than it does in most of the world, and while Australia is generally a fairly open and accepting place for homosexuality, sporting there has not been so easily swayed.

More importantly, it sheds some light on the depression and battles with substance abuse that Thorpe has been dealing with. In addition to the struggles that all athletes go to when transitioning to the dry-life, Thorpe has been keeping his sexuality a secret, and according to, in the interview Thorpe draws a connection between the two.

The full interview will air on Channel 10 at 6PM on Saturday night.

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8 years ago

To those who think this “Isn’t news”,

‘Coming out’ isn’t about telling people you’re gay, as funny and unlikely as it might seem. It’s about finally accepting what you are, who you are and that you will never be able to change that. It signifies the worst is over, the barriers you put in front of yourself are removed – The self-loathing, the false pretences, the lies, the fear and the insecurities. All the barriers being gay had forced you to create in your head, they’re gone, or at least being overcome, one by one. It’s about being able to say “I’m gay and I’m not ashamed any of that anymore”.

I am only a teenager myself and I… Read more »

Reply to  Dee
8 years ago

I am sorry that you suffered for so long, but it is great that your parents accepted you the way you are. My own son is 14 and he came out a couple of years ago. My wife and I have been supportive from the outset and so has the extended family, and he’s a happy little guy. I am hopeful that our society is changing quickly and in the near future kids and adults alike will be less likely to suffer as a result.

8 years ago

To yes sir: maybe he finally wanted the freedom to walk around in public holding hands with (and maybe kissing?) his significant other, a freedom we straight people enjoy and take for granted. I’m sure he’d rather make an announcement to preempt the media frenzy that would have certainly followed any public displays of gay affection.

8 years ago

Ian Thorpe’s sexuality was one of the worst kept secrets in the world of swimming. Any half way intelligent person could read between the lines and reason that he probably was.

It’s time to leave him alone and let him live his life as he sees fit. He’s always been a great ambassador for the sport. I doubt it’s easy to life your life in a fishbowl with everyone watching your every move.

I hope he lives a very happy life. He’s earned it.

8 years ago

I don’t think he was in denial all these years, he just wanted that part of his life private. He’s lived with his Brazilian boyfriend for years. Perhaps the spilt coupled with the added pressure that he had about his sexually being made public caused the recent bout of depression. In order for him to properly heal, he needed to be able to be honest with himself (not that he was denying being gay to himself, he was living this life for sometime) but by admitting this publicly, he can now begin the process of getting treatment in a serious / real fashion.

8 years ago

I grew up, as a lot of us did, idolizing Ian Thorpe for his swimming. As I started to struggle with coming out as gay to my college swim team, I looked around for role models. In 2001, there was not a lot of encouragement. I heard the rumors about Thorpe and always wondered if they were true. But more importantly, I saw the way he was treated by the media and spoken about by my fellow swimmers. So, in any event, I did my coming out without a lot of role models (as a lot of us in my generation (and before) did). In recent years, I have looked around the internet at Thorpe and wondered if his struggles… Read more »

Becky D
8 years ago

Nope. No chance on comeback. I guess you didn’t hear about his recent surgery and infections.

Bag Man
8 years ago

Attention seeking prima donna.

Reply to  Bag Man
8 years ago

Amen to that. I don’t care if its a hobo on the street or Jesus himself comes down and says hes gay. Its not news to me. The fact he has to announce it to the public is appalling. Your personal life is your own. I don’t walk around announcing I love women. Why do people think its our business if you’re gay? Comes back to the liberal media wanting to make a big deal out of crap like this.

And if you think I’m gay-bashing one of my best friends is gay. He’s a great person but I 100% guarantee you he would agree with my comment. He hates all the publicity this kind of crap gets.

Reply to  YES SIR
8 years ago

YES SIR – I assume that your friend is a celebrity sportsman with multiple Olympic medals too then? Having spent most of his life in the public spotlight surely it makes sense that he deals with the situation in a different way to us normal folk.

Reply to  YES SIR
8 years ago

“My best friend– my BEST friend– is Puerto Rican, and that’s close enough” — Daniel Tosh

Reply to  Bag Man
8 years ago

Yes, he is seeking the attention of people like you that disparage him. I can’t believe I didn’t see through his scam.

8 years ago

Blaming Thorpe for not coming out sooner is unreasonable. He may be a public figure, and there is certainly something owed to his fans and the LGBT community, but his first obligation has always been, rightfully, to himself and his own well-being. He was probably denying it to himself for a good part of his life, and for the more recent years, he probably didn’t feel ready. As someone else put it, you can’t get mad at someone for developing on a different schedule than you.

If someone asks if you are gay and you say “no comment,” you’re inviting everyone in the world to assume you are gay (and make no mistake, they will). So yeah, he could have… Read more »

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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