Out and Golden, Australia’s Matt Mitcham Wins Men’s 10m Platform Diving
Matthew Mitcham did two very surprising things at the Beijing Olympics. First, he snatched a gold medal away from the apparently invincible Chinese diving team. Second, Mitcham openly told anyone who asked about his sexuality that he is gay. Matt is undaunted on the platform, and he’s just as fearless about his personal life.
Making his Olympic debut in Beijing in the 10m platform event, Australia’s Matthew Mitcham earned four perfect 10’s on his last dive Saturday night, winning the men’s 10m platform diving competition. “I couldn’t hear the crowd. In my mind I was saying ‘just enjoy it’,” he said of his last, magnificent, dive. Mitcham put his hands over his face and broke into tears after making his winning dive, later saying, “It’s absolutely surreal. I never thought that this would be possible.”
“I wasn’t even sure of my medal chances at all. After I did my last dive and I saw I was in first, I thought, ‘That’s it, it’s a silver medal, I am so happy with this’ and then I won. I can’t believe it, I’m so happy.” His stunning upset victory prevented China from sweeping all eight of the Olympic diving gold medals. Not only was Mitcham’s triumph an astonishing upset win, his sixth and final dive was the highest scoring dive in Olympic history. Mitcham is the first Australian man since 1924 to win a gold medal in diving, and only the third Australian ever to do so.
Mitcham grew up as a non-athletic, rebellious kid, and he’s probably the only elite diver with a tongue piercing. Matt, who is often described as “free-spirited,” still has the piercing, which he says he doesn’t even notice while diving. Mitcham first caught the eye of the then Australian national coach when he was doing back-flips into a public swimming pool as a young teenager. From 2002 until 2006, Mitcham was an award winning diver in both junior and senior national and international diving competitions.
But in 2006 he suddenly quit diving, having become sick of the sport after spending years in the Australian program’s rigid training regimen. After both emotional burnout and physical exhaustion, Matt decided to retire from the sport while he was still a teenager. For a long period of time the young Mitcham had to battle anxiety and depression, which led him to begin psychotherapy and required him to spend some time on medication.
A year later, Mitcham returned to the sport and began training under his current coach, Chava Sobrino, at the New South Wales Institute of Sport. In 2008, Mitcham won all three of his diving events at the Australian Nationals, clean-sweeping the gold medals in the 1m, 3m and 10m individual platform diving events. He followed this spectacular comeback appearance by winning the 2008 Diving Grand Prix event earlier this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Then just three months prior to leaving with the Australian team to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Mitcham made headlines in Australia when he revealed to the Sydney Morning Herald that he is gay, becoming one of the first Australian athletes to do so. In fact, according to a recent sports study, Matt Mitcham is the only man among 10,500 Olympic athletes to have publicly stated that he is gay while still participating in Olympic competition. Mitcham wanted more than anything else for his longtime partner, Lachlan, who has fought the tumultuous battle of Olympic dreams with him, to be there in Beijing’s stands cheering him on. When Mitcham couldn’t afford to pay for it on his own, a grant from Johnson and Johnson’s Athlete Family Support Program enabled his partner to come to Beijing and support him.
The first thing that Mitcham did in the “mixed zone” with the print journalists, after getting off of the Gold Medal ceremony platform, was to hug the Sydney Morning Herald reporter who had handled with such particular sensitivity the story in which Mitcham had revealed that he was gay. He was asked what this Olympic victory meant to him after the tumultuous ups and downs of his last few years. “Everything, absolutely everything I’ve done has been for this,” he said. “I knew it was a far chance, but I did absolutely everything I could to give myself the best chance of doing it. It’s actually happened, and I never thought it would.”
Matt Mitcham Wins Olympic Gold in 10m Platform Diving
The Olympic Gold Medal Ceremony
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