Out gay Aussie diver Matthew Mitcham has applauded Ian Thorpe's decision to come out, arguing that sport needs more high-profile gay athletes to prove the gay "stereotype" wrong.
Olympic legend Thorpe, 31, spoke candidly in an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson that aired on Australia’s Channel Ten earlier today
(July 13), revealing that he is a gay.
Reacting to the news, Mitcham - who came out as in 2008 before going on to win an Olympic gold medal the same year - said that Thorpe's monumental rise to fame at such a young age would have made it hard for him to speak publicly about his sexuality.
“There is no precedent, not on this scale," he told the Sydney Morning Herald
. "It must have been a very harrowing ordeal."
He continued: "It would have been much harder with people asking continuously, especially when you're just not ready. [For athletes in their teens], it’s too young to make a choice, you’re not going to come out and say something that you haven't decided on. It took him 15 years to change his answer [to the question of his sexuality], which is a perfect indicator of his struggle."
Mitcham went on to argue that Thorpe now has the potential to reduce any lingering "stereotypes" and "stigma" surrounding gay people.
“That's why we need high-profile gay athletes, to prove the stereotype wrong," Mitchum said. "Thorpe is about as high-profile as it gets. He’s very influential, I think he has the potential to influence a lot of people, and how people react to it."
Read more about Ian Thorpe coming out in his interview with Sir Michael Parkinson here