LAST night’s much-heralded interview with champion swimmer Ian Thorpe pulled in just shy of one million viewers, significantly bolstering struggling network Channel 10’s ratings.
The 90-minute long program, in which the five-time Olympic and 10-time Commonwealth Games gold medal winner told British broadcaster Michael Parkinson “I’m comfortable saying that I’m a gay man,” drew 982,000 viewers.
However, despite the fanfare, the program still didn’t beat the commercial news bulletins in the ratings with 60 Minutes, Sunday Night, The X Factor, The Voice Kids and drama A Place to Call Home also grabbing higher audience numbers.
Asked why he had consistently denied rumours about his sexuality, Thorpe said he hid behind a “convenient lie” but, ultimately, it didn’t change the reality of who he was.
“I didn’t accept it in myself. I didn’t want to be gay. I was still gay at the end of the day,” he said.
He said he had only decided to make the announcement two weeks prior to the interview and his parents, far from expecting the news, were shocked.
However, they told Thorpe they loved and supported him, “and for young people out there, know that that’s usually what the answer is.”
The swimmer also spoke candidly about his battles against depression and alcoholism.
Looking to the future, Thorpe told Parkinson “I much prefer the chair that you’re sitting in,” hinting at a new career as a media pundit.
Fans won’t have to wait long to see if Thorpe is as good in front of the camera as in the pool with Channel 10 announcing him as part of the commentary team for this month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The #onyathorpie hashtag trended on Twitter over the weekend with messages of support coming in from celebrities and LGBTI advocates alike.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said Thorpe’s announcement “will save lives.”
“Ian Thorpe’s story will inspire young gay and lesbian people across Australia who will see in him someone who shares their struggle with coming out, who has bravely declared to the world who he is, and who has received overwhelming support,” he said.
Fellow Olympian Matthew Mitcham and out gay AFL player Jason Ball all expressed their support with actor and comedian Magda Szubanski tweeting: “So happy & proud for @IanThorpe Coming Out in his own time on his own terms. Wish you all things good darling boy. It’s fun & free Out here!”
Last night Thorpe replied on Twitter: “To Everyone who has sent a message of support I sincerely Thank you!”