I think it’s safe to say that after last week, gold medallist diver Matt Mitcham has graduated from gay icon to outright superstar, and it’s fascinating to see. I have seen a number of bloggers complaining about his attention, that his sexual orientation is and should be irrelevant, that his gold medal win was somehow run of the mill and that his story didn’t matter. I couldn’t agree less – he deserves all of the attention he’s continuing to generate because he’s allowed us to get to know him and share his journey. Not only did he come back from a premature retirement from diving in his late teens, but he suffered from depression and anxiety too, before he took the massive step of coming out publicly (risking his sponsorship) and going to the Olympics as the only out gay male competitor in the world. All this at only 20 years of age. And when he won, with the highest scoring dive in Olympic history, he displayed unimaginable grace and good humour. It was the culmination of a remarkable and engaging story which has rightly captivated the attention of fans worldwide.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
“Coming out publicly, that was a first,” said Vivien (his mother). “The highest score awarded to an Olympic dive ever, another first. How many more firsts can this child get? Can you find something else to be first in? He’s just done so well. He deserves it.”
Just as he has shown flipping around at 10 metres high, Mitcham has shown no fear about disclosing his sexuality. He was the first Australian athlete to go to an Olympics openly gay.
Carefully nursing Mitcham’s Olympic bouquet, (his boyfriend Lachlan )Fletcher spoke of the incredible journey that the diver had taken to the top. Fletcher has been the one constant over the past two years.
He was his rock when Mitcham retired in his late teenage years suffering anxiety and depression. He watched him become a stunt diver at the Sydney Royal Easter show, supported his fight back into the sport and now to win Olympic gold.
I find it hard to express the extent of my admiration for his having overcome such hurdles, whilst remaining so thoroughly himself at the very highest level of his sport. There are precious few out gay people in sports, and as I mentioned in my previous post about him, the example he’ll undoubtedly provide to younger people, both gay and straight is monumental. It took me until this year to find another gay man my age whom I could look up to as an example of the type of person I wanted to be, and it’s exciting to think how many lives Matthew could influence positively by his example. Long may he and Lachlan stay as cute as they are too! Speaking of whom…