After stealing the gold medal from
heavily favored Chinese diver Luxin Zhou by setting a new Olympic
diving scoring record, openly gay Matthew Mitcham did something
unusual. The Australian diver rushed to his boyfriend for a smooch.
Mitcham smiled widely and raised his
arms in victory as he accepted his gold medal at the 10m platform
medal ceremony in Beijing. It might have been the elation of his
come-from-behind victory, the thrill of denying the Chinese a diving
sweep, or just impulse when after the ceremony he decided to storm
the grandstand where his mother and boyfriend cheered on. Mitcham
jumped over several empty seats, climbed up a wall, pressing a
barricade into service as a step ladder upon which he stood to hug
and kiss his mother, and then reached for a smooch from his
Mitcham came out in May when The
Sydney Morning Herald asked whom he lived with. “I hadn't
planned to do it all,” Mitcham told the Advocate. “It was
just a question and it went from there.”
Mitcham, who has been competing since
the age of 11, gave up the sport for six months two years ago when
health and a heavy academic load overwhelmed the athlete.
“I had too much on my plate,” he
told the Advocate. “Going to the Olympics was always a
dream of mine, even winning a medal, but at the time my personal
needs far outweighed the desire.”
At the start of 2007 – partied out
and with new boyfriend, Lachlan, in tow – he returned to diving at
the prestigious Sydney Aquatic Center.
The break payed off big time. In
January, Mitcham broke records by becoming the first Australian to
win the 1m, 3m and 10m springboard titles. Then in May, he shocked
the world by winning the 10m platform event at the USA Grand Prix in
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. On his fourth dive he scored four perfect 10s.
While an online bio at NBC's Olympic
website includes the fact that Mitcham is gay and his boyfriend was
in Beijing, television audiences were denied that information.
Several blogs, including ThinkProgress.com and DailyKos.com, felt the
decision not to include a truthful on-air biography of the diver
denied millions of people the opportunity to see an Olympic gay hero.
On winning the gold, Mitcham said:
“Everything absolutely everything has been for this. I knew it was
a far chance but I did everything, absolutely everything I could to
give myself the best chance of doing it. It's actually happened. I
never thought it would.”