Mitcham’s frequently described as the first openly gay Australian to compete in the Olympic Games, though, in fact, Lisa Marie Vizaniari was fully out and proud when she made the finals of the women’s discus event at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Regardless, it’s great to see a young professional sports person be so open, honest, and fearless about who they are. And Mitcham’s story is yet another reminder that, for the vast majority of the younger generation, issues such as homosexuality and gay marriage are, well, non-issues. I find that very hopeful.
Following is a brief excerpt from The Advocate’s cover story by Harley Dennett on Matthew Mitcham.
Aquatic athletes are as revered in Australia as NFL stars are in the United States, so the news that Mitcham is gay made headlines throughout his home country. It was The Sydney Morning Herald that broke the story; in the course of profiling the diver as part of its Olympics coverage, a reporter from the paper asked Mitcham whom he lived with.
“I hadn’t planned to do it at all,” Mitcham says today. “It was just a question” – which he answered by saying he lived with his partner of two years, Lachlan – “and it went from there.”
The subsequent attention turned out to be a bit of a distraction for Mitcham, who was hunkered down for pre-Olympic training when the story ran in The Herald May 24. He received so many media requests that his coach had to set aside a morning for interviews and photo shoots a couple weeks later. But by 2 p.m. Mitcham had to be back on the diving platform. It was the only access the press has had to the diver since he came out because, as he explains, he needs to concentrate on training and “not worry about what I’m going to say.”
One might think that the fuss would have bothered his fellow divers, but they’re nonchalant about his sexual orientation. “They don’t seem to mind that I’m a big homo,” says Mitcham, who trains six hours a day at the New South Wales Institute of Sport, a facility for elite athletes in 31 sports at Sydney’s Olympic Park. “I make jokes about it all the time. I haven’t made an issue of it, so they just reciprocate that attitude.” Plus, he says, because of its artistry and grace, diving is “such an easy sport to be out in – much easier than football, where you have to be rugged and strong and masculine.”
Indeed, he says, some of his teammates at the institute are gay – as are some of his competitors at the international level. “There are others, but I’m the first to come to the media and say, ‘Hello, I’m gay!’ I’m not scared.”
To read Harley Dennett’s story on Matthew Mitcham in its entirety, click here.
At the Beijing Olympics, Mitcham is competing in the 10-metre platform and 3-metre springboard events. To see his schedule, clip here. To follow his progress, click here.
09/24/08 UPDATE: Mitcham Wins Gold!
Recommended Off-site Links:
Out, Proud, and Ready to Go for Gold - Jessica Hallaron (Sydney Morning Herald, May 24, 2008).
Australian Olympic Diver Scores Big with Openly Gay Interview - MetroWeekly.com.
Olympic Diver is Openly Gay - OutSports.com.
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The “Dubious Politics” Behind the Olympic Torch Debacle
Ian Thorpe’s “Difficult Decision”
A Fresh Take on Masculinity
Darren Hayes, Coming Out . . . Oh, and Time Travel
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness
My Advent Prayer for the Church
In the Footsteps of Spring