Out and Golden, Australia’s Matthew Mitcham Wins Men’s 10m Platform Diving

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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Americans Clinch 4×100-Meter Medley Relay, Phelps Wins Eighth Gold

Americans Clinch 4x100m Medley Relay, Phelps Wins Eighth Gold Medal

A quest that began four years ago after Michael Phelps had won six gold medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics and included 17 swimming performances over nine days at the 2008 Beijing Olympics ended victoriously for Phelps on Sunday. Michael Phelps earned an unprecedented eighth Olympic gold medal of the 2008 Olympics as he swam the butterfly leg of the American team’s world-record win in the 4×100-meter medley relay to close out the swimming competition in Beijing.

Jason Lezak held off Eamon Sullivan of Australia in the final freestyle leg, with the Americans finishing in 3:29.34 seconds. The American men have never lost the medley relay in the history of the Olympics. Australia took the silver medal in 3:30.04 seconds, and Japan won the bronze.

Phelps had tied Mark Spitz with his seventh gold medal the day before in the 100-meter butterfly, winning by the slimmest of margins, .01 of a second over Serbian Milorad Cavic. Phelps set world records in seven of his eight swims, with only the 100-meter butterfly mark not broken. He also won the 400-meter IM, the 200-meter IM and the 200-meter butterfly, breaking his own world mark in each, and led off the 4×200-meter free relay.

Americans Clinch 4x100m Medley, Phelps Wins Eighth Gold

The Olympic 4x100m Medley Gold Medal Ceremony

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Michael Phelps Wins 100m Fly, Seventh Gold on Final Stroke

Michael Phelps Wins 100m Fly, Seventh Gold on Final Stroke

With just five meters left to go in the 100-meter butterfly final on Saturday morning, Michael Phelps realized that he had misjudged the finish. In order to defeat the Serbian Milarad Cavic, who was having perhaps the greatest race of his career, Phelps found himself left with only two choices. He could either glide to the wall as he kicked like crazy, or take an extra, awkward half-stroke.

Most swimmers would have impulsively chosen to glide, but Phelps proved by the slimmest of margins what sets him apart. With Olympic history hanging in the balance, Michael Phelps decided to take one more stroke. His long arms soared above the water, windmilled past his ears and slammed into the wall, while Cavic hit the timing pad in full glide. Both of the swimmers immediately spun around and stared up at the video screen. In the moments that it took for the scoreboard to unscramble the results, one could feel the great tension course through the large crowd of spectators inside Beijing’s National Aquatics Center.

Phelps ended up coming in with a time of 50.58 seconds, his personal best and an Olympic record, winning over Cavic by a whisker, who came in just one-hundredth of a second behind. It was Michael Phelps seventh Gold Medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, tying Mark Spitz’s record from the 1972 Munich Games.

Michael Phelps Wins the 100m Butterfly Final

Phelps Receives His Seventh Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics

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Sexy Olympic Water Sports

Sexy Water Sports at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

David Boudia and Thomas Pinchum: Syncronized Diving Finals

Michael Phelps Wins Gold Medal in 200m Butterfly Relay

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A Glittering Ceremony Opens The 2008 Beijing Olympics

A Glittering Ceremony Opens The 2008 Beijing Olympics

The eyes of the world were on Beijing as a glittering opening ceremony heralded the start of the Games. An audience of 91,000, which included many of the world’s heads of state, were in the Bird’s Nest Stadium for the ceremony. Before the night’s festivities even began, performers from 28 different Chinese ethnic groups danced during the pre-show entertainment. Then, the ceremony opened with a drumbeat that turned into 1000 and roared across the Olympic Green and through the nation.

The opening ceremony was dazzling and the Olympic Park was revealed to the world as a showcase of modern architecture that will define the Chinese capital well into the century. An estimated four billion people around the world watched as China re-introduced itself to the world.

The Opening Ceremony: Lighting of the Olympic Torch

The 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Opening Ceremony Fireworks Display

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The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Wins Olympics Appeal

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius Wins Olympics Appeal

Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee South African sprinter, will be allowed to compete for a place on South Africa’s Olympic team after an international sports regulatory body ruled today that his carbon-fiber prosthetic limbs do not give him an advantage over other runners. The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has the final say over legal issues in sports, has overturned an earlier ruling against Pistorius, which had been made in January by the International Association of Athletics Federations. The IAAF had declared Pistorius ineligible for able-bodied competition, despite originally clearing him to compete last spring, pending further investigation. Pistorius will be allowed to resume his efforts immediately. The Court of Arbitration for Sport was established in 1984 to resolve disputes involving international sports organizations and athletes.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Dick Traum, who is the head of a group of disabled endurance runners named the Achilles Track Club, claimed that the ruling marks a major advance in the promise for athletes with disabilities of being able to compete against athletes without them. “It is absolutely the most exciting thing that has ever happened in terms of the way the sport has turned,” Traum said. “Over the past generation the way people look at amputees has changed dramatically. People like this man are admired instead of ushered to one side.”

The earlier IAAF ruling against Pistorius had concluded that his blade-like “Cheetah” running prosthetics amounted to a technical device that gave him a demonstrable mechanical advantage, because they worked more efficiently than the human ankle and allowed the user to consume less energy than an able-bodied athlete running at the same speed. However, upon reviewing arguments contained in the appeal filed by Pistorius, the Swiss Court of Arbitration said that it was not convinced that the device gave Pistorius an overall “metabolic advantage” and ruled that he should be allowed to compete for the 2008 Beijing games. The new ruling came as a a very happy surprise for the 21-year-old South African, who had already shifted his vision to competing in the 2012 Olympic games in London.

Oscar Pistorius, who is a sports celebrity in South Africa where he is designated “The Blade Runner”, commented that the ruling by one of sport’s highest bodies verified the arguments that his defense team had assembled with the help of a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers. Although the earlier IAAF decision had focused upon the efficiency of the blades, Pistorius’s defense team argued in its appeal that, overall, he had no advantage over runners with both of their legs.

I have been struggling to hide my smile for the last half an hour,” Pistorius said in an interview in Milan. “The truth has come out. We have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of participating in an Olympics.” Pistorius would not be the first athlete with a disability to earn an Olympic spot. Neroli Fairhall, an archer from New Zealand, competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games from a wheelchair, and runner Marla Runyan, who is legally blind, was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team in Sydney, Australia.

However, both Pistorius’s disability and the adaptive prosthetic equipment that he uses are uniquely connected to his specific athletic sport. Using the blades, Pistorius has broken Paralympic records in the 100, 200 and 400 meter events. Pistorius also ran in som
e able-bodied competition last spring, running in a race at The Golden Gala meet in Rome and then at a Grand Prix meet in Sheffield, England. While he did not meet the Olympic qualifying times for those races, last year Pistorius finished second in the 400 meter event at the 2007 South African National Championships. Many sports observers think that Oscar Pistorius now has a good chance to earn an invitation to join the South African Olympic 4×400 meter relay team, which will take a squad of six sprinters to Beijing.

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius

The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Runs

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