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Mitcham, Matthew (b. 1988)  
page: 1  2  

Mitcham's first Olympic performance was not a success. He was off in the three-meter springboard and finished well out of the medals.

In the ten-meter platform event--the final diving competition of the games--Mitcham was much stronger. Going into his final dive, he had a chance to stand on the medal platform. The Chinese team had swept the golds to that point and was expected to take the last one as well, but Mitcham had hopes of at least a bronze.

His final dive was an extremely risky back two-and-a-half somersault with two-and-a-half twists, which he executed with a degree of proficiency that drew gasps of amazement and admiration from viewers. NBC commentator Cynthia Potter exulted, "Matthew Mitcham has done something that nobody in the world thought anybody in the world could do!"

Mitcham said that his memory of "the dive itself is a bit vague. It felt good, although I wasn't exactly sure."

As he emerged from the water, however, he heard wild cheering and saw his score, 112.1 points, the highest in diving history. Poolside, he fell to his knees and dissolved in tears.

Gathering himself, he moved to the backstage area and was immediately mobbed and embraced by teammates, competitors, and other members of the diving community.

Controversy erupted when NBC, which had not even broadcast Mitcham's fifth-round dive (even though it showed all of those of two Americans who finished lower), completely failed to report the fact that Mitcham was the only openly gay man among the over 11,000 athletes at the Beijing games, showed no reaction shots of Fletcher in the stands (or, for that matter, of Mitcham's mother, who was standing next to him), and relegated coverage of the subsequent medal ceremony to its web site.

An NBC spokesperson initially claimed that "in virtually every case, we don't discuss an athlete's sexual orientation," despite the fact that they regularly show spouses and heterosexual partners in the stands and that they also considered a heterosexual love triangle involving two swimmers and a coach to be newsworthy. The network eventually apologized for its "unintentional omission" in its reporting on Mitcham.

Viewers of other networks saw Mitcham's elation at the medal ceremony and his touching sharing of the moment with those he loved most. As he exited the pool deck, he climbed into the stands and kissed both his proud and overjoyed partner and mother.

Following the Olympics, Australians voted Mitcham the Sports Performer of the Year in 2008, and he shared the nation's Don Award (named for Australian cricketing legend Sir Donald Bradman) with pole-vaulter Steve Hooker in recognition of sporting achievements that had inspired the nation. He was also awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Despite his stellar performance, Mitcham found no corporate sponsors until he signed a deal with Telstra, an Australian communications company, in February 2009. He called it a relief to receive sponsorship as he pursues his goal of earning more medals in the London Olympic Games in 2012. Since most divers hit their peak in their mid-twenties, there is every reason to believe that Mitcham may realize his aspirations.

Most people do not appear as public figures at the age of twenty, but Mitcham has done so with grace, stating, "I never made the choice to be a role model, but as soon as somebody looks up to you or finds something in you that they like, you become one. And that's something that you either honor and respect or reject. I honor it."

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Australia

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Dennett, Hartley. "A Backward Three-Somersault Tuck (With a Twist)." The Advocate 1013 (August 26, 2008): 34.

Diver Profile—Matthew Mitcham:

Fonseca, Nicholas. "Matt's Next Act." The Advocate (March 2009):

Halloran, Jessica. "Out, Proud and Ready to Go for Gold." Sydney Morning Herald (May 24, 2008): News and features, 3.

Jeffery, Nicole. "Lost Diver Pikes up for the Biggest Show on Earth." Weekend Australian (January 19, 2008): Sport, 44.

"Perfect 10 Matthew Gets His Sponsorship . . . Finally." Sunday Territorian (Australia) (February 9, 2009): 4.

Wilson, Chris. "Politics Almost Cost Us a Medal." Sydney Telegraph (November 23, 2008): Sport, 61.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Mitcham, Matthew  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2009  
    Date Last Updated December 29, 2010  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2009 glbtq, Inc.  


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