In 2012, swimmer Ian Thorpe published his memoir, “This Is Me.” Except it wasn’t. Well, not entirely.
In his memoir, Thorpe denied rumors that he was gay, said he dated only women and added that he looked forward to marrying and having children.
He may still be looking forward to marrying and having kids but it will be with a man: Thorpe recently revealed in a TV interview in his native Australia what many of us have long suspected – that he’s gay.
Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA, was among the first to tweet support. To those who are inclined to withhold such encouragement, pointing to Thorpe’s hypocrisy and deception, I say, Walk a mile in the guy’s size 17 shoes. He was a swimming star at 14 in an age (the 1990s) that was all about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which is certainly the tacit philosophy the swimming and tennis stars in my new novel “Water Music” embrace. Is it right to deny what you are? No, but neither is it right for society to foster an atmosphere in which people feel denial and deceit are their only routes.
It’s interesting that the Thorpe “revelation” comes at a moment when Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have been facing off once again, this time at the Bulldog Grand Slam in Athens, Ga. Phelpte, as their rivalry is known, was a big part of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay team, along with Peter Vanderkay and Klete Keller, that took down Thorpe and the Aussies at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Head coach Eddie Reese had Phelps leading off– with Lochte second, Vanderkay third and Keller the anchor. He told them to get the lead and hang on for dear life, which is just what the U.S. team did, with Keller holding off a charging Thorpe at the end to dethrone the Aussies for the gold. It remains one of the great races.
Thorpe has been both a rival and a spur to Phelps, the difference between the two being that Thorpe quit when he was 24 in 2006, then tried to come back in 2011, too late. Whereas Phelps never really left and, if the results out of Georgia are any indication, is swimming as well as ever.
One more thing about Thorpe: In 2001, he was scheduled to visit the World Trade Center, realized he forgot his camera and went back to his hotel. It was the morning of 9/11.
It wasn’t his time to go.