Ian Thorpe’s Paid Coming-out Highlights Australia’s Backward Thinking on Homosexuality

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By Athena Yenko | July 14, 2014 5:27 PM EST

Ian Thorpe's coming out was paid for as part of a $550,000 deal with Channel Ten and comes after reports of the athlete's financial troubles in the past year.

The much talked-about coming out of the champion swimmer "has been cheapened" by the truth which lies underneath - it was paid for, and made amidst financial troubles of the champion swimmer, Andrew Webster of The Sydney Morning Herald wrote.

REUTERS/David Gray/Files
Australia's Ian Thorpe, in front of an Australian flag, holds up the six gold and one silver medal he won at the 17th Commonwealth Games in Manchester in this August 5, 2002 file photo. Thorpe, Australia's most decorated Olympian, revealed he was gay in an emotional television interview on July 13, 2014, ending years of speculation about the champion swimmer's sexuality.

The deal was orchestrated by Thorpe's manager James Erskine, who is also the manager of Michael Parkinson.

Webster said that the chance for the athlete to come out in a much dignified manner came when he was interviewed for his biography in 2003 by late Inside Sport editor, Greg Hunter.

Hunter had spent a year writing Thorpe's biography and in spite of being perfectionist and professional, he had difficulties tackling a chapter about Thorpe's sexuality.

Finally, Hunter "looked Thorpe in the eye, believed his version of events, and then passionately argued with anyone who dared to suggest the young swimmer was anything but heterosexual," Webster said.

From thereon, the "myth" of Thorpe's sexuality remained as is, a myth; especially that those people who were paid to protect the athlete said that Thorpe was very much a ladies' man - until he came out.

However, even with these claims, Webster thinks that Thorpe's coming-out did not diminish the reality about the country.

"That Thorpe is dealing with this now, at the age of 31, illuminates how far Australian society still has to go, and it extends beyond the Prime Minister's backward thinking about same-sex marriage. Because it's not easy taking a stand - whether you are paid for it or not," Webster wrote.

Meanwhile, sports psychologist, Deidre Anderson, who worked with champion swimmer Ian Thorpe for a close ten years, says that the athlete's coming out is a process of reevaluation and visiting his childhood self, "outside the water."

Anderson said that with Thorpe being involved in sport at a very young age, the athlete had to "redefine" himself. Redefining one's self is one of life skills that people had taken for granted.

"So for Ian he had to really go back and explore himself and who he was and what his moral compass was all about and what his values were all about and really redefine him outside the water," Anderson told ABC.

And while Thorpe is tough at his sport, what was inside of him was vulnerable as he had difficulty pushing away the one thing "compromising the sort of values that you have as a person," she said.

"I know he's worked really hard to try and understand what those values are. He mentioned in the interview that honesty and integrity were two critical things, and if you can't be honest and have a level of integrity about yourself then the rest of the life that you're living is a facade."

Now that he is out, this marked a new beginning in the athlete's life, says Anderson. The same was echoed during Thorpe's coming out interview as he said he want to pursue a career as a television talk show host.

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(Photo: REUTERS/David Gray/Files / REUTERS/David Gray/Files)
Australia's Ian Thorpe, in front of an Australian flag, holds up the six gold and one silver medal he won at the 17th Commonwealth Games in Manchester in this August 5, 2002 file photo. Thorpe, Australia's most decorated Olympian, revealed he was gay in an emotional television interview on July 13, 2014, ending years of speculation about the champion swimmer's sexuality.
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