Sydney :Australia's triple Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice made a tearful public apology today for making a homophobic comment on Twitter, saying her words were thoughtless but not meant to offend.
The Beijing Olympics star refused to speak about swimming or the recent shoulder surgery which has taken her out of next month's Commonwealth Games, but broke down as she pleaded for the chance to win back the public's trust.
"My comments were thoughtless and careless but I can assure you when I made those comments on Twitter I never intended to offend anybody," she told a specially convened news conference here.
"I've learned a lot in the last couple of days. I've learned I must think before I speak and this has been a very important lesson.
"I've also learned that some things you say can mean more to others than they do to you."
Rice prompted a storm of controversy when she tweeted "Suck on that faggots!" after Australia's narrow win over South Africa in the Tri-Nations rugby on Saturday.
The 22-year-old later deleted the post and apologised on her website but the comment prompted an angry response from gay ex-rugby league player Ian Roberts who called her an idiot, while luxury car maker Jaguar scrapped a sponsorship deal with the swimmer.
"I owe it to those who I have offended to publicly say, I am sorry. It is not me to give offence to other people no matter who they are," Rice said.
"I am not a person who judges others or speaks in a way that hurts others."
Australian swimming's glamour girl, who has deals with underwear company Davenport and the Channel 7 network, said she was not homophobic.
"I felt I've let a lot of people down," she said. "I just want people to know how sorry I am. I'm just here to gain people's trust back and show how out of character it was."