| Ian Thorpe |
London: Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimmer, has spent much of his life fighting crippling depression and has, at times, considered suicide, planning specific ways to kill himself, he admits in a new book.
The five-time Olympic gold medal-winner also drank huge quantities of alcohol to manage his moods, he confesses in This is Me: The Autobiography.
“It was the only way I could get to sleep,” he wrote.
“It didn’t happen every night, but there were numerous occasions, particularly between 2002 and 2004 as I trained to defend my Olympic titles in Athens, that I abused myself this way - always alone and in a mist of disgrace.”
The 30-year-old swimmer also uses the book to address persistent rumours about his sexuality, saying: “For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight. I’m attracted to women ... and aspire to have a family one day.”
Known as the “Thorpedo”, Thorpe 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.
But despite the triumphs, his new book reveals that the swimmer, who came 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.
“It made people happy, but it made me miserable. 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? Looking back, I don’t think so, but there were days in my life that even now make me shudder.”
In his autobiography, written with Robert Wainwright, Thorpe says he had never spoken about the complications of his life and his parents were unaware he had suffered crippling depression.
“I know the illness can’t be blamed or used as an excuse for poor results,” he added.
“I was able to swim some of my best times through some of the worst periods.
“And it also wasn’t a reaction to the high life of red carpets and speeches, and neither can I blame the media intrusion — although it certainly hasn’t helped and might explain my reticence to discuss my private life. It’s a terribly dark place in which to hide.’’
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.