Michael Klim has rejected claims Australia’s greatest Olympian Ian Thorpe could have been greater if he had come out while competing.
Mark Spitz - who famously won seven gold in the 1972 Olympic pool - said Thorpe may have added to his already remarkable resume if he had not been burdened by keeping his sexuality a secret.
However, dual Olympic gold medallist Klim did not believe it had held Thorpe back, saying his former Australian teammate had shown throughout his career that he could overcome adversity.
Klim cited the world record-breaking response to then German head coach Manfred Thiesmann’s implication that Thorpe was using steroids ahead of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Thorpe eclipsed his own world 400m freestyle mark on the first night of Olympic competition in the Sydney pool then combined with Klim, Chris Fydler and Ashley Callus to inflict the United States’ first ever defeat in the 4x100m freestyle relay, setting another world record.
“Every time he was challenged with suggestions of drugs in sport, in Germany for example he came out and broke the world record,” Klim said.
“Whenever there was adversity, he was able to rise above it.”
Asked if Thorpe would have been accepted if he had come out while competing, Klim said: “Absolutely.
“It was overwhelming the last couple of days the support he has had.
“It’s sad to see he has had to get through turmoil to get there but hopefully he is on the right track now.
“I hope it is a weight lifted off his shoulders.”
Klim believed homophobia was still an issue in sport but hoped Thorpe’s announcement would help change attitudes.
“Unfortunately in sport homophobia still exits a little bit,” said Klim, who has arrived at the Australian swim team’s pre-Glasgow Commonwealth Games camp in Manchester as an official mentor.
“That casual banter about sexuality still exists and it is a bit of a shame.
“Hopefully what Ian has gone through will raise awareness and the future of the sport will be better for it.
“People have the right to be who they want to be, to be healthy and happy human beings.
“This is part of the process of getting there.”