Australian swimming star and Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe on Sunday told a radio interviewer that he is not a gay man but that he is flattered so many people think he might be. The 20-year-old said on Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Sunday Profile that he believes that many people think he is gay because he is articulate, has an interest in fashion, and does not resemble the stereotype of the macho Aussie bloke. "You know, I'm a little bit different to what most people would consider being an Australian male," Thorpe said. "That doesn't make me gay." Then he added, "It's the most flattering thing that anyone can ever say, because if someone wants to label you or...claim you [as part of] a minority group, it means you must have some strength in your character or in what you do."
According to Marcus O'Donnell, editor of the gay newspaper Sydney Star Observer, Thorpe's straightforward response to the rumors could win him even more gay fans than he already has. "There have been a lot of rumors and a lot of speculation about Thorpie, and really he has hit a nail on the head--it's because he doesn't measure up to the typical macho Aussie sporting hero," O'Donnell said. "It's perfectly cool now to be straight and have an interest in Armani fashion or pearl jewelry or Kylie Minogue, and why shouldn't it be?"