Australian Olympic legend Ian Thorpe reveals why he nearly retired aged just 17 as he tells all about his coming out of the closet – and gives advice to gay AFL players who want to go public.
- Thorpe considered retiring early
- He thinks a gay AFL player would be accepted
- If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
Australia’s greatest Olympic swimmer of all time, Ian Thorpe, has revealed he is seriously considering retiring at 17 – and offers advice for gay AFL players considering coming out.
The five-time gold medalist reflected on the pressure he was under ahead of the 2000 Sydney Olympics where, aged 17, he was expected to win gold.
Thorpe, who had been world champion since he was 15, said News Corp. that it was almost impossible to stop the noise.
And after winning gold, Thorpe felt he had finally achieved what he had always wanted to do.
“When I was a kid, my goal was to be an Olympian, but my dream was to be an Olympic champion. They are two very different things. The dream is something that is a higher ambition, and that’s the kind of thing that you don’t know if you’re allowed to aim for,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe says he almost quit the sport at 17 after achieving everything he dreamed of
Thorpe says he was afraid to come out as gay because of the pressure he was under
“But I had realized both when I was still a child, and so I asked myself at this point: ‘What am I really looking for now?’ I accomplished more than I expected in this area, is it time for me to move on to another area of my life?
“So I thought about that for a brief period, even at the Sydney Olympics when I finished competing. Am I just walking away from the sport?
When asked if the pressure and anxiety were too much to handle, Thorpe said that wasn’t the problem.
‘None of that. I felt there was more to accomplish outside of the pool, and I had accomplished everything I could have imagined at this point,” he said.
Thorpe, who came out publicly as gay in 2014, said he was afraid to reveal the truth about his sexuality during his swimming career because he “already had enough on his plate”.
“It was more out of fear and because I was under enormous pressure.
“That could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I had enough on my plate where I’m supposed to win things.”
No current male AFL player has publicly come out as gay, but Thorpe believes they would be supported if they took this revolutionary step.
Thorpe thinks an openly gay AFL player would be well received these days
Olympian says AFL star coming out will make it easier for kids struggling with their own gender identity
“I think they would be well received, overall. Some of the concerns gay male athletes once had have partly disappeared.
“I think number one, the team would probably be the most tolerant. It’s the group you want acceptance from, those people you train with and work with towards a common goal.
“Then as far as the fans go, I’m not 100 per cent sure, but I think it’s mostly that person who would be adopted.”
Thorpe thinks there’s a good chance there’s an AFL player right now who’s struggling to come out, and he’d like to give him some advice.
“I encourage them by telling them that it will be a much better path than they probably imagine,” he says.
“But again, they’re going to make that trip a lot easier for kids who might be struggling elsewhere in the country, because if you can’t see it, you can’t get there.”