This is the third in a series of articles profiling known out and proud Olympic athletes who are openly LGBT. The New Civil Rights Movement will publish one article each day as we move into the London 2012 Olympics.
First and foremost, Matthew Mitcham is a fantastic diver. To watch his 2008 gold medal winning 10m platform diving performance is to see a genuine work of art, and it earned him the highest single-dive score Olympic history. Seemingly immune to the laws of physics, Mitcham executes more athletic precision in a few seconds than seems physically reasonable. He slices through the water as if it had chosen to ignore his very existence.
Born in Brisbane, Australia in 1988, he got his start as a trampoline gymnast, representing Australia in the 1999 and 2001 Word Junior Championships. Once his attention turned to diving he saw similar success, becoming national junior diving champion from 2002-2004. After failing to qualify for the Olympics in 2004, he spent the next four years bringing home yet more national titles, while dealing with some olympic sized demons of his own.
Like many LGBT teenagers, Matthew Mitcham struggled with anxiety and depression. His battle was such that he temporarily left the sport in 2006, but returned just a year later to begin a comeback worthy of a Disney movie, culminating in his historic 2008 Olympic record breaking dive. After a move to Sydney and a reevaluation of his life, his focus and dedication became therapeutic. He says of his return, “I’ve learnt that there’s no amount of hard work I won’t do if I want to achieve something. Seeing what happens when I put the effort in makes me happy.”
After coming out to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2008, Mitcham has found himself in an even more unlikely position; that of advocate. He told the same paper recently, “Until it is easy for sports people to come out without fear of persecution or fear of lost sponsorship income and stuff like that, or fear of being comfortable in the team environment, I don’t mind attention being brought to my sexuality in the hope that it might make other people feel more comfortable … in being comfortable enough about who they are in their sporting environment.”
Image, top, via Facebook
Follow our series: “2012 Olympics: Who Are The LGBT Athletes?” as we profile all the out LGBT athletes playing in the London 2012 Olympic games.
Benjamin Phillips is a Humor Writer, Web Developer, Civics Nerd, and all around crank that spends entirely too much time shouting with deep exasperation at the television, especially whenever cable news is on. He lives in St. Louis, MO and spends most of his time staring at various LCD screens, occasionally taking walks in the park whenever his boyfriend becomes sufficiently convinced that Benjamin is becoming a reclusive hermit person. He is available for children’s parties, provided that those children are entertained by hearing a complete windbag talk for two hours about the importance of science education, or worse yet, poorly researched anecdotes PROVING that James Buchanan was totally gay. If civilization were to collapse due to zombie hoards or nuclear holocaust, Benjamin would be among the first to die as he has no useful skills of any kind. The post-apocalyptic hellscape has no real need for homosexual computer programmers who can name all the presidents in order, as well as the actors who have played all eleven incarnations of Doctor Who.
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