Is Ian Thorpe Gay?

Maybe, sort of:

Thorpe is not homosexual, I am assured, but this will not stop people on the internet speculating about his svelte looks, cultured interests and friendships.

"I tick all the boxes," he admits. "There is no way I can answer this. It really has just got to the stage when I say, 'whatever'. It's not a big deal for me. It doesn't impact on my life what people think.

"What I don't like about it is that people think I'm being dishonest. That's what's so hurtful in all of this. I don't live my life as an open book, but what I do say, I don't retract. That is me."

That's from a Daily Telegraph profile that went up yesterday, succinctly titled, "Ian Thorpe: Am I gay? It's at the point where I just say 'whatever.'" It's a good read all around—Thorpe has apparently made a good impression as a swimming analyst for the BBC this summer ("the philosopher king of the BBC sofa," says the Telegraph), the article very Britishly describes him as "grippingly attractive," he wears Armani exclusively, he's trying to make a comeback in time for the world championships in Barcelona next year, he's obsessed with gardening and cooking, he claims to have "one of the highest selling sports drinks in Japan"—you know, standard athlete stuff. If you didn't have a chance to see any of Thorpe's work for the BBC (as I didn't), it seems like he did commendable work: in this clip, he looks like a candid and fluent analyst while talking Yi Shiwen and doping in swimming.

Whoever wrote the headline, though, understood which part of the story is news: Thorpe won't give a clear answer about sexual preferences—there may not be one—but when asked point-blank to affirm or deny that he was gay, Thorpe didn't quite say "no." His agent said "no," but Thorpe said, "I tick all the boxes." Maybe Thorpe is a practitioner of the hedonistic pansexuality of the rich and beautiful about which we roly-poly proletarians occasionally hear whispers (which is sort of what "I tick all the boxes" sounds like coming from any celebrity); maybe it's something more defined and relatable. Thorpe also may be straight, as his agent insists, but then it seems fair to wonder why a question about his sexual orientation would prompt him to say, "There's no way I can answer this."

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If he's on the verge of being openly gay or bisexual, he'd automatically become one of the most prominent out athletes in the world. A Google search for gay athletes turns up a few lonely Yahoo Answers pages and this hilariously low-tech ESPN Outside the Lines article from 1998 which features, alone among names you might recognize, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Greg Louganis twice. Thorpe, though, was Michael Phelps back when Michael Phelps couldn't keep track of his retainer: he won 3 golds and two silvers at his hometown Games in Sydney in 2000, six gold medals at the 2001 world championships, and picked up another two Olympic golds at the 2004 Athens Games. Per Wikipedia, Thorpe won the 400m freestyle "at every Olympic, World, Commonwealth and Pan Pacific Swimming Championships" from 1998 to 2004.

The Telegraph reports that Thorpe (despite not living his life "as an open book") is working on an autobiography which he says will feature "more than one revelation."

[Daily Telegraph]