Grant Hackett reckons former swimming teammate Ian Thorpe retired early because of the emotional burden of keeping secret the fact he was gay.
“I believe this was the major factor that led Ian to wrap up his career in his mid-twenties,” Hackett wrote in a blog for an online bookmaker on Friday.
“The heights he scaled throughout his career were unprecedented, but there could have been a whole lot more to the CV of Ian Thorpe.”
Three-time Olympic gold medallist Hackett applauded Thorpe’s courage to come out in a television interview with veteran British journalist Sir Michael Parkinson on Sunday, but claimed “it wasn’t a surprise to many”.
“It would’ve been unbearable to think of the emotional burden Ian has carried over the years,” he said.
“I think the expectation of the public and media every time he competed, coupled with the lack of insight into dealing with his depression, and not feeling comfortable enough to open up about his sexuality, created too much of a high pressured environment.
“Ian never said he disliked swimming – it was always the outside factors that contributed to his early retirement.”
Hackett added that very few people could appreciate the internal struggle Australia’s most successful Olympian faced in having to lie about his sexuality.
“At the end of day, this is not my business nor anybody else’s, however the pressure that is placed upon high profile individuals and their sexual orientation seems outrageous,” he said.