Ian Thorpe watched at Wimbledon earlier this month.  (Glyn Kirk / AFP / Getty Images)

After years of speculation about his sexuality, Ian Thorpe, the five-time Olympic swimming champion from Australia, has announced that he is gay.

After denying rumors in his 2012 autobiography, Thorpe, 31, came out in an interview with Michael Parkinson on Australia’s Channel 10.

“I’m not straight,” Thorpe said. “And this is only something that very recently – we’re talking in the past two weeks – I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that.”

Thorpe had sought to avoid the issue entirely as a young swimming star. “I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.”

The pressure was enormous, he said, and he feared disappointing his fans and family. Thorpe retired from swimming two years ago after winning five Olympic gold medals, three silvers and one bronze. He has struggled to recover from a serious infection after undergoing shoulder surgery this winter and this was the right time for him to come out.

“I wanted to make my family proud. I wanted to make my nation proud of me. And part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” he said. ”But I’m telling not only Australia, but I’m telling the world, that I am.”