Ian Thorpe hid his sexuality because he didn’t want any 'distractions'

Olympic champion Ian Thorpe has admitted he hid his sexuality while he was competing because he didn't want it to be "a distraction".

The 41-year-old revealed how he previously denied he was gay because he wanted to concentrate on his sporting career in the early 2000s.

"I had to swim the Olympics and had to win," he told the Daily Telegraph. "I did not want anything to be a distraction for me. I don't want people talking about this," he said.

"So every time it is alluded you may be gay, you're thinking of it as a negative thing and as a young person you make it bigger than it needs to be. So I answered no."

He went on to talk about how he now believes it's important to be open about your sexuality.

"I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man. And I don't want people to feel the same way I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay," he noted.

The five-time Olympic gold medalist came out as gay during an interview with Sir Michael Parkinson in July 2014.

"I had spent some time with (Sir Michael Parkinson) before the interview and told him, 'You should ask me if I'm gay because I'm going to tell you I am.' I needed to say it. It was the first time I felt I was comfortable enough to put myself out there. It was important for me to be my authentic self," he explained.