Australian Olympic Diver, Matthew Mitcham, made early news waves when he openly came out as a gay athlete coming into the 2008 Olympic Games. He now has done something historical. He is the first openly gay Olympian to garner the goal medal. Athletes like Greg Louganis was not out during the competition.
Australian diver Matthew Mitcham
He outperformed the China favorite on the 10 meter diving platform. After the medal ceremony, Mitcham and long term partner, Lachlan Fletcher, embraced underscoring a relationship that has been kept relatively mum by the mainstream media. NBC did not even pan camera shots of Mitcham’s mother and partner during the ceremony. In fact, NBC has completely ignored Mitcham’s sexuality.
Mitcham embraces Lachlan
Jessica Halloran of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote about Lachlan and Mitcham:
He kissed him briefly in the stands and gave him his Olympic bouquet. Later, outside the glowing blue Water Cube, Matthew Mitcham and his partner, Lachlan Fletcher, firmly embraced, both shedding tears.
Carefully nursing Mitcham’s Olympic bouquet, 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.
“It’s been so up and down,” Fletcher said. “When I first met him, he was pretty unhappy, he wasn’t liking the diving in Brisbane at all, he didn’t want to do it, wasn’t happy being there” ( OutSports.com)
GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images
Mitcham has acknowleged how the support of his partner and family has enabled him to make this achievement. Again, a page of these games will be devoted to the journey of this young man who dared to be himself and who dared to go for the Olympic dream. Australia should be proud. The world should be proud that Matthew Mitcham made these Olympic games.
photo by: JULIAN ABRAM WAINWRIGHT
Out, proud and ready to go for gold
May 24, 2008 Sydney Morning Herald
This medal favourite is taking a historic and courageous step: he’s the first Australian to go to the Olympics declaring his homosexuality, writes Jessica Halloran.
MATTHEW MITCHAM is brave enough to dive from a 10-metre platform for Olympic gold and courageous enough to do what no Australian athlete has done.
When Mitcham balances on the Beijing diving tower this August, like all Australian Olympians, he will be hoping the ones he loves will be there to watch him.
The gold medal hopeful’s journey has not been easy. Those close to him have seen Mitcham, 20, battle depression, retire in his teenage years after physical and emotional burn-out, then nine months later resume his sport and build himself into the champion he is today.
One person who has been by his side for the entire tumultuous journey is his partner, Lachlan.
Months out from the Games, Mitcham has taken the courageous step of revealing his sexuality to the media for the first time, in an exclusive interview with the Herald. He has also applied for a grant through a Johnson & Johnson Athlete Family Support Program to have Lachlan near him in Beijing.
“We can’t afford for Lachlan to go at the moment,” Mitcham said. “But Johnson & Johnson offer grants to go to Beijing and I’ve nominated Lachlan as the support person I want to go.”
It’s not only Lachlan who has helped Mitcham to Beijing. His coach, Chava Sobrino, had faith in him when no one else did and resurrected his career. Former athlete Sarina Bratton cares for him like a son and fellow diver Alex Croak is a constant sounding board and his best friend.
“That little support network has made my dream possible,” Mitcham said. “It would have been impossible and I probably wouldn’t have made it without their help.”
Those who adore him could be watching Mitcham win gold after his performance just over a week ago in Fort Lauderdale. Mitcham stood 10 metres high with the fierce wind whistling in his ears and battling trying conditions. “When I was whizzing around, the sky is the same colour as the water. I was freaking out. It was the first time I had dived outside since I left the sport.”
His performance was astonishing. Mitcham beat two top Chinese divers who will challenge him for gold. When he saw his four perfect 10s he whooped and leaped on the pool deck. Finally, the man who had battled anxiety and depression as a teenager, taking medication and seeing psychologists, had arrived on the world stage. And it proved the time he spent away from the sport last year had been worth it. Mitcham’s premature retirement had been a chaotic and unusual time when he “partied” and lived without regimen.
“I was a free spirit,” he said. “It was a break for me to explore myself and get familiar with who I really was and to be happy with who I really was. Just being a happier person really radiates into other areas of your life.”
To make money, among other things, he plunged from a tower 14 metres high into a pool of water for crowds at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney last year. It was a blessing in disguise.
“At the same time I was applying for the NSW Institute of Sport to try and get into the diving squad. It was a good warm-up. I was doing similar dives and getting my head around all of the movements again. It was a pretty smooth lead into intense training again.”
Mitcham thinks he would not be going to the Olympics if not for the hardship he endured.
“I probably wouldn’t have as much of a fighting spirit,” he said.
“The more you have experienced, the more you have to draw off. I look at the last 20 years as a long, winding path of lessons and some hardship. I hope the rest of my life isn’t straight because that could be boring.
“I hope it continues to wind, but maybe not so tumultuous. I hope I do have a long and winding path and more lessons to learn. I look forward to that.”