As you know, for the next few weeks, we are doing a week of content on a different gay British athlete each week.
You may have seen that this week, we have another swimmer for you with Ian Thorpe. Yesterday, we discussed a little bit about him and today, I will be giving you a selection of quotes from him, regarding his sexuality, and naturally, swimming.
The first quote I want to line up has quite the motivational theme, something that runs through quite a few of Ian’s more famous quotes. The first one I chose because I feel this one could be quite the inspiration for someone involved in anything competitive.
“When I go out and race, I’m not trying to beat opponents, I’m trying to beat what I have done … to beat myself, basically. People find that hard to believe because we’ve had such a bias to always strive to win things. If you win something and you haven’t put everything into it, you haven’t actually achieved anything at all. When you’ve had to work hard for something and you’ve got the best you can out of yourself on that given day, that’s where you get satisfaction from.”
And another quote along the same track…
“For myself, losing is not coming second. It’s getting out of the water knowing you could have done better. For myself, I have won every race I’ve been in.”
As I discussed in the bio article on Ian, there was a quite a lot of pressure on him from many sides to discuss his sexuality and the rumors surrounding it. But it was back in 2014, he came out as gay in an interview with Michael Parkinson.
At the time, he said: “I’ve thought about this for a long time. I’m not straight. And this is only something that very recently, we’re talking the past two weeks, I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me, exactly that. I’ve wanted to [come out] for some time but I couldn’t, I didn’t feel as though I could. What happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity.”
You can see a clip of the interview below.
It was only very recently, of course, that we learned that the pressure on Ian ever since he was young, actually delayed him in coming out.
“If I had a little bit more time when I was younger I would have come out, because I would have been comfortable with that,” Thorpe said. “And that’s why I think, we’re all making the same point, around why we don’t push people to come out. For me, when I did come out, it was amazing to have such a kind of warm embrace from people.”
And as I will go through fully in my look at Ian’s achievements, he has seen great success as an athlete with numerous gold medals and “legend” status in many people’s minds, especially sports fans in his native Australia.
Yet, due to the high pressure environment of sports, and the pressure to come out, did lead Ian to have mental health issues.
When speaking on this in Huffington Post article, he said: “I am someone who has struggled with mental health issues since I was a teen. From the outside, many would not see my pain nor be able to relate to the sometimes-daily struggle I was facing. It would have appeared as though I had grasped the world with both hands — a gifted athlete, student with a youthful naivety and innocence who chooses to believe in the best the world has to offer[…]. My future seemed boundless. This is part of the deception of depression and also mental illness: what may appear at face value is a stark difference from the agony that lies within.”
“Depression is irrational, what may seem to be a near-ideal life can indeed mask what is an ongoing hell. It’s difficult for others who have not lived through this experience to understand. I can see why, when I look at my life from the outside and recognise the plentiful gifts that were bestowed upon me to succeed and excel, I understand people’s apprehension to comprehend my struggle.”
So it is certainly testament to his strength and courage that Ian managed to battle depressed through his sport, and we hope to see him reach only success in the future. For help with mental health issues, start here.