The Daily Telegraph has published the entire transcript of Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe's coming-out interview with Michael Parkinson.
While a predictable amount of attention has been heaped on Thorpe's continued lying about his sexual orientation in the face of relentless hounding by the tabloid press, AKSARBENT found Thorpe's recounting of his 400 meter freestyle win and his role in Australia's 4x100 relay win riveting. Thorpe is Australia's most successful Olympian, having won 5 Gold, 3 Silver and 1 Bronze medals.
Ian Thorpe: This was the Mens’ 4 by 100 relay. It was a race that the American team had never been beaten — ...in the entire history, no never been beaten and this was the cold war, where we have athletes and this was you know, a real battle! But for some reason, people in the streets started to think we could win! And we were 2 seconds behind or something in terms of where we were. But then the swim team started to believe that we could win, and then there’s about 6 of us looking around going ‘how are we going to do this?’. And so we’re all putting on that we believe that we can, but we just didn’t know how it would happen! And I was swimming down after receiving my gold medal for the 400m freestyle, I went to put on a swimsuit, it ripped!
Michael Parkinson: How big a rip?
Ian Thorpe: Oh completely, I ripped the zipper off it! Because I was trying to get it on and I didn’t have much time. And so we had 10-20 people trying to help me get it on which was not working and also someone on the radio mike saying, ‘he’s coming’. Because you have to check yourself off before you swim. And I’m not coming! I’m still getting it on and so I got rid of everyone, I had one person. And I’m like ‘Adam’, help me get this thing on, and I’m trying to get my wet swimsuit back on and pulling it up and still hearing it. I ran through, I saw and smiled at a lady who knew me from when I was a kid who ticked me off just in time.
I ran out just behind the blocks just as Australia was announced and I put my hands up with the rest of the team. Everyone said, ‘where have you been?’, and I’m like, ‘we’ll just get on with this!’. And this race was electrifying. We had Michael Klim who led, he broke the World Record, as the lead-off so then we had distance in front of the Americans. Then it was followed by Chris Fydler who was one of the senior swimmers on our team. And Chris was the best sprintour in the team for a long time, a lot of experience.
So we knew we’re always going to be faster the second lap of the race, and that we’d fight for each one of them. We knew what the American’s team’s strategy would be, the placement of athletes, whatever else, the same as they’ve always done it! And Chris Fydler had the swim of his life. Then it comes in to Ashley Callus who went into the pool but I can remember Michael Klim hitting me going, ‘what time did I do?’, I said it was the World Record. He said ‘yeah, but what time?’, and I said it’s the World Record that means no one’s gone faster than that before so whatever it was it’s your best time too.
But we continued on, and I was watching Ashley. I’d just asked the guys, all I want is a lead. And Ashley came in, and I knew that their fingers were touching together, or close to it but I did have a lead. When I said a lead, I should have been more specific, to not an armstroke! I wanted body lengths. I was up again a swimmer called Gary Hold Jr, he’s quite an outspoken swimmer. He said that he’d smash the Australian team like guitars. He’s a nice guy by the way, but he said these stupid things...