SYDNEY (AFP) –
Australia’s five-time Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe has spent much of his life battling depression, and even considered suicide, excerpts from a new book by the swimmer revealed Saturday.
The swimmer also uses the book to address persistent rumours about his sexuality, saying: “For the record, I am not gay”, adding that he would one day like to have a family.
The soon-to-be-released book “This is Me: The Autobiography” describes the athlete’s struggle with what he describes as “crippling” depression, which led him at times to drink large quantities of alcohol.
“I even considered specific places or a specific way to kill myself — but then always baulked, realising how ridiculous it was. Could I have killed myself?” the 30-year-old wrote in an excerpt in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Looking back, I don’t think so but there were days in my life that even now make me shudder.”
Known as the “Thorpedo”, the Olympic great retired in 2006 after a glittering career in which he ruled the pool from 1998 to 2004, taking nine Olympic medals and 11 world titles and setting 13 long course world records.
The new book reveals that Thorpe, under intense media scrutiny from his teens, often felt like “a performing seal” and retiring at the age of just 24 was about reclaiming his life.
“I realised how much enjoyment everyone else got out of my swimming: friends, family, coaches, the public — Australians go nuts when you win gold medals,” he said in an interview with the Herald.
“It made people happy, but it made me miserable.”
Thorpe said he never missed a training session due to alcohol and was able to hide the truth from sports psychologists and coaches while an elite athlete.
“It was the only way I could get to sleep,” he said of his drinking.
Thorpe’s attempted comeback to the Olympic arena in 2012 flopped, with the swimmer failing to qualify for London at March’s Olympic trials, little more than a year after announcing ambitious plans to come out of retirement.
But he said despite the praise he received for his commentary for the BBC at the Olympics, he would continue to swim and wants to compete for Australia at next year’s world championships.