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Thorpe 'in a really good place' after battling depression

31 October 2012

Ian Thorpe has described himself as an introverted nerd who is enjoying swimming even after the shock of missing the London Olympics.

The five-time Olympic gold medallist, who turned 30 earlier this month, also opened up about his battle with depression and intrigue over his sexuality.

Speaking on the eve of the release of his autobiography, Thorpe admitted he gets frustrated that people don't believe him when he tells them he isn't gay.

"The thing I find hurtful is people are questioning my integrity... that this is something that I would be embarrassed about, or I would hide," Thorpe told ABC TV's 7.30 on Tuesday night.

"I think it's because I don't fit into the typical stereotype of what Australian athletes have been in the past.

"I guess I like different things.

"I'm a nerd... who just happened to be good at a sport as well.

"I don't want to offend anyone whether they're friends that are gay... by getting angry about it, frustrated about it.

"The only thing I find frustrating is that people think I'm lying."

As a 14-year-old, Thorpe became the youngest male ever to represent Australia at the world championships in Perth in 1998, and he duly won the 400m freestyle title.

Despite his phenomenal early success that included three Olympic gold medals in his home town of Sydney in 2000, Thorpe was fighting demons.

"It was in my mid-teens when I realised something wasn't quite right," said Thorpe.

"And at the time I didn't know it was depression.

"And it wasn't until a little bit later that I went to seek some help."

But after confronting his illness that included turning to alcohol to numb the pain, Thorpe said it was cathartic to pen a chapter on his depression battle and hoped his experience will help others in their fight.

"When I wrote this book, I wrote the chapter on depression for myself," he said.

"I never thought I'd include it in the book.

"But then I said `no, it's staying in'.

"And the only reason I can do that is because I'm in a really good place. I'm happy with what I'm doing. I'm loving swimming. I'm enjoying my life. Things are good."

After four years away from swimming following his retirement in 2006, Thorpe returned to the pool in a bid to swim at the Olympics in London this year.

But after working his way back to fitness in Switzerland under coach Gennadi Touretski, Thorpe failed to make the final of the 200m freestyle at the Australian trials in Adelaide.

"I was shocked after the trials, but that's life," said Thorpe, who is targeting qualification for the 2013 world championships in Barcelona.

"It isn't always perfect and I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing right now."

Will Knight

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