The former Australian Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski has come out.

The 34-year-old, who won four Olympic medals during his career, said he was “tired of living a lie”.

He told the Sunday Age he was inspired by Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas, who came out in December.

Kowalski said he felt “anger because I was jealous … he was out and felt liberated and free”.

He added: ”And it really got me thinking that I could do that (come out) if I wanted to. I felt really compelled to do it because it’s very tough to live a closeted existence.”

The swimmer said that he only decided to come out to friends and family in 2006.

”Things pop in my head that make me realise that I clearly suppressed these thoughts of being gay … because it was ‘wrong’, as a male it’s ‘wrong’ but even more as an elite athlete,” he said.

”I always knew that I lacked confidence when I stood up on the blocks and I do wonder sometimes if that lack of confidence was fear – fear of not really knowing who I am.

”On the sporting side, I lost to some amazing champions, so I’m not for a second saying that this is the reason I didn’t win. I often wonder if the lack of self-confidence and lack of identity in many ways held me back from reaching my potential.”

He added that he hoped to find love soon, saying: ”I look for all the things straight people do. I want to fall in love and be happy and be proud of who I am.”

Kowalski follows just a handful of Australian sportsmen who have come out, including retired NSW rugby league player Ian Roberts and Olympic medal-winning diver Matthew Mitcham.

He was congratulated on Twitter by Gareth Thomas, who wrote: “A great friend, and now a free man, who will help thousands of people, especially children.”