SYDNEY • Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe has said he would have come out earlier if he had had more time to become comfortable with his sexuality.
The swimming great made the comment while appearing with a panel of gay Australian sports stars at Sydney's Mardi Gras film festival on Sunday.
The panel included the diver Matthew Mitcham, footballer Sally Shipard, swimmer Daniel Kowalski, basketballer Shelley Gorman-Sandie and rugby league player Casey Conway.
The panel discussed being elite gay athletes and the impact their sexuality has had on their careers and personal lives at a screening of the documentary Out To Win, which deals with LGBTI participation in elite sport.
Thorpe, 33, said he was first asked about his sexuality when he was just 15.
"If I had had a little bit more time when I was younger, I would have come out, because I would have been comfortable with that," he 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."
Thorpe came out as gay in July 2014 in an interview with Michael Parkinson, years after winning a total of five Olympic golds in 2000 and 2004.
Mitcham, who won a gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, spoke about the importance of gay sports stars coming out to send a positive message to aspiring young athletes.
"And so when more LGBTI athletes come out and they do start getting those big endorsements and they do start getting their faces on Kellogg's boxes and stuff like that, that's when younger kids are going to go, 'Oh, sexuality is not going to be a barrier to me being successful,'" he said.