Legendary Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe has come out as gay.

The five-time Olympic gold medallist, 31, has faced rumours about his sexuality for years, which he has always previously denied.

He last spoke about the rumours in 2012, saying: “For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight. I’m attracted to women, I love children and aspire to have a family one day.”

However, in an interview with Michael Parkinson which is set to be broadcast tomorrow, the swimming star reveals that though he has dated women in the past, he is gay.

Olympic diving star Matthew Mitcham told the Australian Daily Telegraph: “I can totally understand how difficult this whole process has been for him.”

“I really hope this process gives him some peace and that the media and the public give him the same respect and the same overwhelming support I received in 2008.

“The Australian public and media have a really wonderful opportunity to set an example for kids who are in Ian’s position.”

Parkinson said: “I think his sexuality is no one’s business but his own. But I think it’s one of the best interviews I have ever done in terms of (Thorpe) talking about depression and things like that.”

During his career, Thorpe won nine Olympic medals – five gold, three silver, one bronze – in addition to 11 World Championship titles, and 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals.

‘Ian Thorpe: The Parkinson Interview’ will air in Australia next tomorrow at 6:30pm on TEN.